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Delivering Digital

White House Budget Pushes for Federal IT Transformation

The requested federal budget calls for increased modernization of IT systems throughout the federal government

While the White House federal budget proposed this week is unlikely to survive Congress in its current form, the spending proposal revealed the administration’s desire to enhance IT within the federal government.

The $4.7 trillion 2020 budget asks Congress to reduce spending in non-defense related agencies by 9 percent. In total, the budget requests nearly $3 trillion in spending reductions through increased efficiency and reducing non-mandatory spending. The exception is efforts toward IT modernization.

The budget includes a request for $150 million in additional funds for the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF), created to allow agencies to propose transformative IT initiatives, and if the project is selected, it’s funded through the TMF and repaid within five years. Within the first 10 months of its creation last year, the TMF received 50 proposals, valued at more than $500 million. To date, seven projects have been funded worth nearly $90 million.

Last spring, in the President’s Management Agenda, the White House established the goal to leverage data as a strategic asset across all federal agencies. This Federal Data Strategy aims to establish federal practices for data governance, access, use, and augmentation, improve data-driven decision making and accountability and make federal data more readily available commercially and to the public to help spur innovation.

The federal budget earmarked $150M for the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) to pay for transformative IT initiatives

The proposed budget requests the creation of a Federal Data Service, that would operate within the Department of Commerce, and it would build the anticipated Federal Data Strategy.

The budget also requests specific IT spending increases to help transform the digital transformation efforts of several agencies:

Within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs:

The Budget provides $4.3 billion for essential investments in IT to improve the online interface between the veteran and the Department. This includes an increase of more than $200 million to recapitalize aging network infrastructure, to expedite VA’s transition to the cloud, and to support emerging VA MISSION Act of 2018 IT requirements.

In addition, the Budget includes $1.6 billion as part of a multiyear effort to continue implementation of a new Electronic Health Record (EHR) system. The EHR is a high-priority initiative that would ensure a seamlessly integrated healthcare record between the Department of Defense and VA, by bringing all patient data into one common system.

Within the U.S. Department of the Treasury:

The Budget builds on the work started in 2018 to consolidate and transform the Department’s IT efforts to better support the Department’s mission, strengthen cybersecurity, and achieve greater efficiencies in IT across DOT’s Operating Administrations. The Budget proposes $502 million for DOT’s Working Capital Fund, which would allow the Department to continue to consolidate IT investments into the Office of the Secretary of Transportation.

The Budget also requests $18 million to protect Treasury information technology (IT) systems that carry out these activities, as well as those that account for and process trillions of dollars in revenue and payments against cybersecurity threats. These funds are requested in addition to bureau-level investments and would be centrally managed to strengthen the security of Treasury’s highest-value IT assets and improve Treasury’s response and recovery capabilities.

Within the Internal Revenue Service:

The Budget provides $290 million for the IRS’s multiyear IT modernization efforts, including upgrading its antiquated infrastructure and integrating its multiple case management and tax processing systems. Approximately 90 percent of individual taxpayers file their taxes electronically and can check on the status of their funds electronically. However, for most other taxpayer interactions, taxpayers and the IRS must interact through the mail, which slows the resolution of issues. These funds would also be used to increase taxpayers’ ability to interact with IRS securely and electronically, improving the time it takes for IRS to resolve concerns.

A modernization of federal IT systems will likely be welcomed by those having to interact with these agencies, as well as cybersecurity experts. In addition to potentially lower support costs than aging systems, increased ease of doing business, and better utilization of data, the ability for the federal government to defend itself from digital attacks will be enhanced. Last year the Office of Management and Budget issued a report that found 71 of 96 agencies fell far short of the cybersecurity obligations. The two biggest culprits have been dogging federal IT for some time, legacy technology and a dearth of qualify IT workers.

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