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OMB’s IT Procurement Overhaul Latest in Series of Tech Initiatives

Jeffrey Zients and Vivek Kundra; Photo: omb.gov, Chris Harvey

Chief Performance Officer Jeffrey Zients unveiled the latest in a series of initiatives to reform federal IT projects: a plan to restructure the $80 billion IT procurement process.

The most recent plan, which Zients revealed in a speech before the Northern Virginia Technology Council on Nov. 19, seeks to align IT development cycles with the congressional budget schedule and also contains provisions preparing the way for further deployment of cloud-computing platforms.

The feds’ push for IT reform got underway in June, when federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra announced a governmentwide review of federal IT projects, focused on getting a more solid return on investment from IT projects, rather than cutting spending.

As part of the review, Kundra announced the Office of Management and Budget would freeze projects that were consistently behind schedule and over budget.

Another aspect of Kundra’s far-reaching IT plans involve the shuttering of federal data centers. The feds hope closing data centers will reduce costs, as well as nudge agencies in the direction of cloud computing.

In the latest round of initiatives, the cornerstone of the plan is the change to the federal IT procurement process, Nextgov reports. The plans call for coordination between the federal funding process and the cycles at which agencies deploy new technology. To make IT funding more agile, the plan calls for general appropriations for agencies’ IT projects, rather than detailed funding proposals.

“With general purpose funding, agencies quickly could pay for smaller projects without committing to specified complex, multiyear modernizations that often fail,” Nextgov reports.

But whether Congress would agree to such a proposal, which would limit its considerable powers of the purse strings, is still uncertain.

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