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Treasury Reprimanded for Erroneous IT Dashboard Reporting

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is scrutinizing federal agencies’ IT Dashboard reporting.  Treasury is the first agency under fire for discrepancies between IT project information reported to Congress and ratings for the same programs on the IT Dashboard.

On April 20th, Senators Ron Johnson (R-WI)and Tom Carper (D-DE), the chairman and ranking member of the committee, sent Treasury CIO Sonny Bhagowalia a letter requesting explanations for the reporting differences. “Inaccurate or dated information prevents the public from understanding how their tax dollars are being used and inhibits Congress’ ability to track the progress of IT projects over time,” states the letter

The IT Dashboard was established by OMB in 2009 to provide the public with performance and risk information regarding federal IT projects.  CIOs rate project performance for cost, schedule, and risk on an ongoing basis.

The IRS is also required to report summary level risk assessments to Congress on a quarterly basis for 13 major IT programs. The assessments are based on meetings between the IRS CTO and Deputy CIOs regarding each project’s performance in the areas of cost, schedule, scope, risk, technology and organizational readiness.

In the fourth quarter of FY 2014, three IRS projects were cited as “red” and four as “yellow” for cost and schedule variances by the IRS CTO in the report to Congress.  The seven projects represent more than $1.4B in spending for FY 2015. However, the IT Dashboard ratings for these projects show a rating of “green,” low risk or moderately low risk for all of FY 2014.

The discovery of these discrepancies follows in the wake of a March GAO report chastising IRS for continued problems with IT project reporting.  GAO stated that IRS had made limited progress regarding Congressional reporting on IT projects, and admonished IRS for not fully implementing their prior recommendations regarding cost, schedule and performance reporting for IT projects. 

Additionally, GAO reported earlier this month that agency CIOs claim IT reporting to OMB as not useful for their own IT management.  This makes me wonder if reporting to the IT Dashboard is viewed as just another item on the CIO “To Do” list rather than a valuable exercise that deserves a high level of attention and effort.  

The Senate committee has asked Bhagowalia to explain why there are discrepancies between what was reported to Congress by the IRS CTO and what is reported on the IT Dashboard.  Additionally, the committee wants to know the degree to which component CIOs and CTOs are consulted for IT Dashboard ratings, and why none of the 60 major Treasury projects tracked on the dashboard are rated as “red” and only eight rated as “yellow.”  The Treasury CIO has until May 8th to respond.

 

FY 2016 Budget Request – Information Technology Highlights

Information Technology (IT) budgets are UP for fiscal year (FY) 2016 nearly across the board for major federal departments. The Obama Administration released its FY 2016 Budget request Monday morning, and around 6 p.m. the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) posted details on the Information Technology budget proposal, revealing a return to year-over-year budget increases for both the Defense and Civilian top-line numbers and net increases for most Executive Branch departments and agencies.

In a previous entry we looked at the overall FY 2016 discretionary budget highlights across the top agencies. Here, we will focus on IT.

According to the IT budget request for FY 2016, the overall IT budget for Executive Branch departments and agencies comes in at $86.3B, up 2.3% from the FY 2015 enacted level and 5.5% higher than the $81.7B spent in FY 2014. However, factoring out grants to state and local governments, the total IT budget for FY 2016 comes in at just over $79B, an increase of 4% from FY 2015, which was effectively flat from FY 2014. (See table below.)


 

AGENCY HIGHLIGHTS

In addition to the many budget increases for the next fiscal year, many agencies are also allocating greater funds to Development, Modernization, Enhancement (DME) efforts over Operations and Maintenance (O&M). These and other funding observations are included in the following agency highlights.

Department of Defense

The DoD is allocated a total of $37.3B in IT funds for FY 2016, a 3% increase over the FY 2015 enacted level of $36.3B. The total funds are split between classified and non-classified areas, $6.6B and $30.7B respectively. If enacted, this would mean a 2% increase in classified DOD IT and a 9% increase in non-classified DOD IT.

OMB released only top-line IT budget numbers for DoD and promised detailed updates in early March. This is fairly common practice each budget cycle, but shrouds DoD IT spending longer than any other department. Until then, we pursued what IT-related spending information could be gleaned from other DoD budget documentation.


Air Force

  • $1.8B in Procurement funds for Electronics and Telecom Equipment, an increase of more than $400M (30%) over FY 2015
  • $2.6B in Space Procurement funding, which budget materials note that FY 2016 marks the first year that such procurement are broken out.
  • $2.4B in Science and Technology RDT&E funds, an increase of $96M from FY 2015
  • $287M in Procurement funds for the Strategic Command And Control program, up from $140M (+105%) in FY 2015
  • $103.7M for AFNET, up 15% from the $90.5M level in FY 2015
  • $31.4M in Procurement funds for “General Information Technology,” down from $43M in FY 2015.
  • $9.6M for Integrated Strategic Planning & Analysis Network (ISPAN), an increase of $500K (6%) from the FY 2015 level

Army

  • $3.5B in Procurement funding for Communications and Electronics Equipment
  • $783M in O&M funding for upgrades to the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T)
  • $260M in Procurement funding for the Distributed Common Ground System-Army
  • $152.2M in Procurement funding for Automated Data Processing Equipment
  • $103M in Procurement funding for the Installation Information Infrastructure Modernization (IMOD) Program
  • $72.2M in Procurement funding for the Communications Security Program
  • $43.5M in Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation funding related to WIN-T for developing Network Operations software to meet the Army Network Convergence goals
  • $22M in Procurement funding for the Unified Command Suite

Navy

  • $17.9B in R&D funding, up nearly 12% from the FY 2015 level of $16.0B
  • $55M in R&D for Cyber (ORT/TFCA only), up from $3M in FY 2015
  • $2.4B in Navy Procurement funds for Communications and Electronics Equipment, up $158M (7%) from FY 2015
  • $279M in Procurement funds for CANES, down from $336M in FY 2015
  • $31.8M For the Distributed Common Ground System-Navy (DCGS-N), up from $23.7M in FY 2015
  • $135.7M for the Information Systems Security Program (ISSP), a 26% increase over the FY 2015 level of $108M
  • $740M in Marine Corps Procurement funds for Communications and Electronics Equipment, including $67M to support NGEN. The total is up from $570M in FY 2015

Defense-Wide

  • $12.3B in funding for the Science and Technology program for future technologies
  • $7.4B in funding for C4I systems
  • $7.1B for space-based systems
  • $800M for the MQ-9 Reaper Unmanned Aircraft System
  • $84.4M in Procurement funding for equipment for the Joint Information Environment, a 539% increase over the $13.3M invested in FY 2015
  • $57.7M in Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation funding for SOF Advanced Technology Development
  • $11.7M in Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation funding for Insider Threat detection

Agriculture

The USDA’s FY 2016 budget request for IT is $1.95B, 1.56% higher than the estimated level of $1.92B in Fiscal Year 2015.

Funding highlights include: 

  • $431M in the USDA’s Working Capital Fund, with money in this account used to finance central services in the USDA, including automated data processing systems for payroll, personnel, and related services; telecommunications services; and information technology systems
  • $66.3M in funding for information technology related to Farm Service Agency IT programs, including work related to the Modernize and Innovate the Delivery of Agricultural Systems (MIDAS) program
  • $29.5M in DME funding for the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Conservation Delivery Streamline Initiative (CDSI)
  • $29M in DME funding for the Office of the Chief Information Officer’s Optimized Computing Environment (OCE)
  • $28M for the USDA’s cyber security requirements and programs
  • $7.6M to fund a USDA Digital Services team that will focus on transforming the department's digital services in line with the White House’s Smarter IT Delivery initiative
  • $4.25M for information technology infrastructure at the Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service
  • $3M to implement the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, including changes in business processes, work force, and/or information technology assets
  • $1M for the Common Computing Environment, a shared information technology platform for the Farm Service Agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Rural Development

Commerce

The president’s budget request provides $2333.2M in funding for the Commerce Department’s information technology, an 8% increase over FY 2015 enacted levels. 62% of FY 2016 funds are dedicated to operations and maintenance, a 3% increase over the FY 2015 enacted levels. Funding to support development, modernization, and enhancement efforts totals over $880M for FY 2016, rising above the amount enacted in FY 2015 by 38%.

Funding highlights include:

  • The top ten investments by requested funding for FY 2016 combine to make up just over 57% of Commerce’s entire IT budget.
  • Includes $339.7M in new investments for FY 2016.
  • Funding for upgrades is set to receive $5.2M for FY 2016, level with the enacted amounts for FY 2015.
  • Mission delivery and management support efforts request an additional $84M, bringing the total for FY 2016 to $1,415.5M and marking a 9% increase over the enacted level from FY 2015.
  • Commerce aims to provide $798.3M in funding for infrastructure, office automation, and telecommunications, an increase of 8% over levels from FY 2015.
  • Increasing 27% over the enacted level for FY 2015, Commerce has identified $116.2M for efforts related to enterprise architecture, capital planning, and CIO functions.

Energy

The president’s budget request provides $1,469.1M in funding for the Energy Department’s information technology, a 1% drop from FY 2015 enacted levels. 92% of FY 2016 funds are dedicated to operations and maintenance, a 1% increase over the FY 2015 enacted levels. Funding to support development, modernization, and enhancement efforts decline below the amount enacted in FY 2015 by $25.M, marking a drop of 18%.

Funding highlights include:

  • With details for over 700 investments for FY 2016, the top ten investments by requested funding combine to make up around 11% of Energy’s IT budget.
  • Includes $72.7M in new investments for FY 2016.
  • Consolidation activities are set to receive $43.6M.
  • Funding for upgrades is set to receive $3.5M for FY 2016, level with the enacted amounts for FY 2015.
  • Energy is targeting $663.8M in funds for mission delivery and management support, marking a drop of 2% from FY 2015.
  • Maintaining the enacted funding level from FY 2015, Energy aims to provide $747.6M for infrastructure, office automation, and telecommunications.
  • Increasing 7% over the level for FY 2015, Energy is looking to provide $73.5M for efforts related to enterprise architecture, capital planning, and CIO functions.

Health and Human Services

The president’s budget request provides $11.4B in total IT funding to HHS, a 10% decrease over FY 2015 enacted levels. Grants account for $6.4B of the total IT budget.  HHS’ proposed IT budget without grants totals $4.9B which is a 2% decrease over FY 2015.

Funding highlights include (excludes grants):

  • DME accounts for $1.1B or 22% of the total IT budget, a 14% decrease from FY 2015 enacted levels
  • 545 total investments of which the top 10 represent 37% of the total IT budget at $1.8B
  • $149M slated for cloud investments, a 5.5% decrease from FY 2015
  • Notable changes in agency IT budgets include CMS $2.3B down 3%, NIH $781M down 2.4%, FDA $584 up 1%, and CDC $324M down 6.5%
  • Notable program changes include CMS IT Infrastructure – Ongoing down $95M, CMS Federally Facilitated Marketplace (FFM)down $60M, and CMS Beneficiary e-Services up $22M

Homeland Security

The budget request provides $6.2B for IT investments at DHS for FY 2016, a 4% increase over the FY 2015 enacted level of $5.9B.

Funding highlights include:

  • DME accounts for $1.0B or 16% of the total IT budget, a $76M increase from FY 2015 enacted levels
  • $150.3M in DME funds for USCIS Transformation, which makes up 83% of the total FY 2016 funding of $180.9M
  • $463.9M for the National Cybersecurity & Protection System (NCPS), including $95.8M in DME funds, 21% of the total
  • $102.7M for the Continuous Diagnostics & Mitigation (CDM) program, of which $91.4, or 89%, are DME funds
  • $88.5M in DME funds for the CBP Non-Intrusive Inspection (NII) Systems Program, which represents 42% of the overall $209.3M for the year
  • $80.3M in funds for the NPPD Next Generation Networks Priority Services (NGN-PS), 100% of which is DME

Interior

The president’s budget request provides $1,098.5M in funding for the Department of the Interior’s information technology, a drop of less than one percent from FY 2015 enacted levels. 92% of FY 2016 funds provide operations and maintenance, a 2% increase over the FY 2015 enacted levels to $1014.2M. At less than $85M for FY 2016, support for development, modernization, and enhancement efforts drops 20% below the amount enacted in FY 2015.

Funding highlights include:

  • The top five investments by requested funding for FY 2016 combine to make up over 61% of Interior’s entire IT budget.
  • New investments receive $5.6M for FY 2016.
  • Requesting $402.1M for mission delivery and management support efforts, Interior looks to slightly raise the funding for these investments bumping the total up by 1% over the FY 2015 levels.
  • Interior’s request of $657.6M for investments targeting infrastructure, office automation, and telecommunications marks a 1% decrease from FY 2015 enacted levels.
  • Dropping 13% from the level enacted for FY 2015, Interior has identified $38.3M for investments related to enterprise architecture, capital planning, and CIO functions.

NASA

The president’s budget request provides $1,390.4M in funding for NASA’s information technology, a 2% decrease from FY 2015 enacted levels. 95% of FY 2016 funds are dedicated to operations and maintenance, maintaining the FY 2015 enacted levels at $1,323.1M. Funding to support development, modernization, and enhancement efforts takes a hit for FY 2016, dropping 27% below the amount enacted in FY 2015 to $67.3M.

Funding highlights include:

  • The top five investments by requested funding for FY 2016 combine to make up nearly 59% of NASA’s entire IT budget.
  • NASA is looking to maintain its spending for mission delivery and management support, requesting $942.8M for FY2016.
  • $445.2M for Infrastructure, office automation, and telecommunications, a 2% drop from FY 2015 levels.
  • Maintaining the funding level enacted for FY 2015, FY 2016 would see $2.5M for efforts related to enterprise architecture, capital planning, and CIO functions.

Justice

The president’s budget request provides $2732.3M in funding for the Justice Department’s information technology, a 4% increase over FY 2015 enacted levels. Topping $2,250M for FY 2016, 83% of these funds are dedicated to operations and maintenance, marking a 5% increase over the FY 2015 enacted levels. At $476.1M for FY 2016, funding to support development, modernization, and enhancement efforts stay fairly level with the amount enacted in FY 2015, dropping by only 1%.

Funding highlights include:

  • The top ten investments by requested funding for FY 2016 combine to make up nearly 37% of Justice’s entire IT budget.
  • Includes $110.6M in new investments for FY 2016.
  • $478.6M is requested for system upgrades, an increase of around $5.5M over enacted levels for FY 2015.
  • Consolidation activities are set to receive $237.3M.
  • Dropping by 2% from the enacted FY 2015 levels, the request for mission delivery and management support activities totals $1,138.0M for FY 2016.
  • Justice aims to provide $1,413.8M in FY 2016 for infrastructure, office automation, and telecommunications, marking an increase of 10% from the level enacted for FY 2015.
  • Rising 23% above the FY 2015 level, Justice has identified $152.2M for efforts related to enterprise architecture, capital planning, and CIO functions.

Social Security Administration

SSA sees a 7% budget increase for FY 2016, growing to $1.7B from $1.6B in FY 2015.

Funding highlights include

  • At SSA DME accounts $705M or 42% of the total FY 2016 IT budget
  • $278.4M is allocated for Non-Major Infrastructure IT investments, of which 275.5M (99%) is DME
  • $55.0M in DME funds for the Disability Case Processing System (DCPS)      , which accounts for 92% of the total $60M budget
  • $68.5M slated for Non-Major IT Security Initiatives, 62% of which ($42.7M) is new development funds
  • $29.1M in new DME funding for the Intelligent Disability program, which makes up 84% of the $34.8M total

State

The State department receives $1.6B in IT funds for FY 2016, up 15% with an increase of $218M from FY 2015.

Funding highlights include

  • $140.4M of total agency DME funds account for 9% of the total FY 2016 IT budget and increases $3M from FY 2015
  • $28.5M for Consular Systems Modernization, of which $18.8M (66%) is DME funds
  • $13.3 in funding for the Architecture Services program, 100%        of which is DME
  • $11.0M in DME funding for Bureau IT Support, which accounts for 5% of the overall $230.3M allocated for FY 2016
  • $10.9M for DME efforts around the Global Foreign Affairs Compensation System (GFACS), or 35% of the total $30.8M in funds
  • $43.3M in total funding for the Integrated Personnel Management System (IPMS), $10.1M (23%) of which is DME
  • $31.6M in total funding for the Earnings Redesign initiative, $27.6M (88%) of which is DME

Transportation

The DOT’s FY 2016 budget request for IT is $3.3B, 6.4% higher than the estimated level of $3.1B in Fiscal Year 2015.

Funding highlights include:

  • $245M in DME funding for the FAA’s Terminal Automation Modernization and Replacement Program (TAMR-P)
  • $238M in DME funding for the FAA’s Data Communications NextGen Support (DataComm) program
  • $215M for the FAA’s Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) system
  • $200M for the FAA’s Facilities & Equipment account to finance major capital investments in FAA power systems, air route traffic control centers, air traffic control towers, terminal radar approach control facilities, and navigation and landing equipment
  • $3M to implement the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, including changes in business processes, work force, and/or information technology assets
  • $60M for NextGen operations planning activities at the FAA
  • $42.6M in funding through September 30, 2018 for information management related to Motor Carrier Safety Operations and Programs
  • $20M for FMCSA’s commercial vehicle information systems and networks deployment program and Information Technology Deployment (ITD) program
  • $9M to fund a DOT Digital Services team that will focus on transforming the department's digital services in line with the White House’s Smarter IT Delivery initiative
  • $8M for cyber security initiatives, including necessary upgrades to the DOT’s wide area network and information technology infrastructure
  • $4M for operation and maintenance of the FTA’s National Transit Database

Treasury

The president’s budget request provides $4.5B in total IT funding to Treasury, a 19% increase over FY 2015 enacted levels.    

Funding highlights include:

  • DME accounts for $933M or 21% of the total IT budget, a 4% increase from FY 2015 enacted levels
  • 280 total investments of which the top 10 represent 56% of the total IT budget at $2.5B
  • $330M slated for cloud investments, a 9.6% increase from FY 2015
  • Notable changes in agency IT budgets include IRS $3.2B up 30%, Fiscal Service $697 down 1%, and Departmental Offices $255M down 5%
  • Notable program changes include IRS Main Frames and Servers Services and Support (MSSS) up $219M, IRS Enterprise Services - PAC 9U up $204M, and IRS Applications Development Program Support (ADPS) up $60M

Veterans Affairs

The president’s budget request provides $4.4B in total IT funding to VA, a 5% increase over FY 2015 enacted levels.

Funding highlights include:

  • DME accounts for $639M or 15% of the total IT budget, a 11% decrease from FY 2015 enacted levels
  • 31 total investments of which the top 10 represent 92% of the total IT budget at $4B
  • $49M slated for cloud investments, a 32% decrease from FY 2015
  • Notable program changes include Benefits 21st Century Paperless Delivery of Veterans Benefits up $116M, Medical 21st Century Development Core down $81M, and Interagency 21st Century One Vet up $75M

We will be publishing our complete analysis of the FY 2016 budget request – including IT investments and initiatives – in the weeks to come.

Fellow GovWin Federal Industry Analysis (FIA) analysts Kyra Fussell, Deniece Peterson, Angela Petty and Alex Rossino contributed to this entry.

 

FY 2016 President’s Budget Request – GovWin FIA’s First Take

The White House released its FY 2016 Budget request today, perhaps the earliest annual budget release of the Obama Administration thus far. Several of my fellow GovWin Federal Industry Analysis (FIA) colleagues and I wasted no time in delving into this budget so that we could provide you with our first impressions of what we found noteworthy.

Similar to each presidential budget, the FY 2016 President’s Budget Request provides a blueprint for the administration’s policy and legislative agenda for the coming fiscal year and beyond. We reviewed the largest federal departments’ discretionary budgets to get a sense of direction and priorities for FY 2016, which begins October 1, 2015. Below is a summary table followed by key funding details and initiatives arranged by department.


Defense

DoD’s discretionary base budget request is up nearly 8% over FY 2015. The $534.3B in discretionary funding is $38.2B more than the FY 2015 enacted level.

Funding highlights include:

  • $126.53B for the Army (an increase of $7.B from the FY 2015 enacted level)
  • $161.0B for the Navy (an increase of $11.8B from the FY 2015 enacted level)
  • $152.9B for the Air Force (an increase of $16B from the FY 2015 enacted level)
  • $94.0B for Defense-Wide operations (an increase of $3.4B from the FY 2015 enacted level)
  • $51B in Oversees Contingency Operations (OCO) funding across all DoD (a decrease of $13.4B from the FY 2015 enacted level)
  • $209.9B for DoD operations and maintenance funding (an increase of $14.5B from the FY 2015 enacted level)
  • $107.7B for DoD procurement funding (an increase of $14.1B from the FY 2015 enacted level)
  • $69.8B in DoD RDT&E funding (an increase of $6.3B from the FY 2015 enacted level)
  • Invests $12.3B in DoD’s Science and Technology (S&T) Program, including $5.5B in Advanced Technology Development
  • Provides $7.4B for C4I systems
  • Includes $7.1B for DoD Space Investment Programs
  • Funds construction of the Joint Operations Center for U.S. Cyber Command at Fort Meade, Maryland
  • Funds ongoing investments in the DoD’s Joint Information Environment
  • Modestly increases the budget of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency from $2.9B to 3B
  • Allocates $32.3B for the Defense Health Program
  • Allocates $109.4M for communications upgrades at the new U.S. Strategic Air Command headquarters building

Agriculture

The president’s budget request includes $23.5B in discretionary appropriations for the Department of Agriculture, 1.25% below the enacted level of $23.8B in Fiscal Year 2015.

Funding highlights include:

  • $1B in financial assistance to rural businesses
  • $2.2B in community facility loans for rural areas
  • $6.4B for direct and guaranteed farm ownership and operating loans
  • $450M for competitive, peer-reviewed research for fundamental and applied agricultural sciences
  • $200M in funding for Watershed and Flood Preventions Operations
  • $206M to invest in the backlog of priority facility construction and renovation for the Agricultural Research Service
  • $60M to modernize the Headquarters South Building
  • $7.6M for a digital services team to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of USDA IT systems

Commerce

The president’s budget request provides $9.8B in base discretionary funding to Commerce, an 11% increase over FY 2015 enacted levels. These funds are intended to promote growth through trade, invest, and innovation as well as a data-driven economy.

Funding highlights include:

  • Provides funding to National Institute of Standards and Technology in support of advance in areas like cybersecurity and advanced manufacturing. Efforts to work with industry are called out in particular, such as implementing the Cybersecurity Framework of standards and best practices. Funding will also sustain work on initiatives like cybersecurity automation and the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC).
  • $1.5B to Census to support research, development, and implementation of the 2020 Census. The Census Bureau will also include planned increase for the Economic Census and advance initiatives to make data and resources publicly accessible.
  • Continues strong funding for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, including $2B for next generation weather satellites, including $380M for the Polar Follow-On satellites. $147M in funding is also provided for the construction of an ocean survey vessel.
  • $1.1B for National Weather Service includes increases in funding for critical infrastructure.
  • Includes $3M to establish an in-house Idea Lab to pursue innovative approaches to achieve the agency’s strategic goals and objectives.
  • Requests $6M to build a digital services team for Department of Commerce dedicated to improving IT systems and services.
  • $497M for the International Trade Administration includes $20M to expand SelectUSA efforts to grow business investment in the United States.
  • Auctions 500MHz of federal spectrum, aiming to reduce the deficit by $40B over the next decade and provide greater commercial access to spectrum.

Energy

The president’s budget request provides $29.9B in base discretionary funding to Energy, a 10% increase over FY 2015 enacted levels. These funds are intended to support nuclear security, clean energy, environmental cleanup, climate change response, as well as science and innovation.

Funding highlights include:

  • $5B in funding supports transformational research and development for critical technology areas such as nuclear safety, grid modernization, solar and renewable energy, and energy efficiency.
  • $5.3B to support scientific research, especially in the physical sciences.
  • $12.6B for National Nuclear Security Administration, an 11% increase over FY 2015 enacted levels.
  • $5.8B for critical nuclear legacy cleanup responsibilities.
  • Expands efficiency initiatives introduced in FY 2015 to advance key priorities and improve project integration.

Health and Human Services

The president’s budget request provides $79.9B in base discretionary budget authority to HHS, a 0.3% decrease over FY 2015 enacted levels. 

Funding highlights include:

  • Supports the Affordable Care Act and operation of the Health Insurance Marketplace.
  • Provides $4.2B to serve 28.6 million patients at more than 9,000 health center sites in medically underserved communities. $2.7B of this amount is new mandatory funding.
  • Funds reform of health care delivery by finding better ways to deliver care, pay providers, and distribute information.
  • Promotes innovative medical research to maintain the nation’s leadership in the life sciences including research into Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Advances product development efforts to support procurement of next-generation medical countermeasures against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats with a $522M investment.
  • Accelerates progress in scientific and public health efforts to detect, prevent, and control illness and death related to antibiotic-resistant infections with funding of $993M.
  • Proposes targeted reforms to Medicare and Medicaid which are projected to save more than $400B over the next decade.
  • Provides the Indian Health Service with $5.1B, an increase of $461M over FY 2015 enacted levels, to expand health care services and construct clinics and sanitation facilities.
  • Includes $1.6B to bolster food safety activities.    
  • Promotes continued efforts to cut waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid including removing social security numbers from Medicare beneficiary ID cards.

Homeland Security **

DHS would receive $41.2B in base discretionary funding in the president’s budget request, a 7.9% increase over the FY 2015 $38.2B budget request level. DHS is currently operating under continuing resolution (CR) at the FY 2014 enacted budget level of $39.8B. This CR expires on 2/27 by which time Congress is expected to pass appropriations to cover the remainder of FY 2015.

Funding highlights include:

  • $3.7B for Aviation Security and Screening at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) sustain aviation security and effectively align passenger screening resources based on risk. These risk-based security initiatives maximize security capabilities and expedite the screening process for low-risk travelers.
  • $132.3M for the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Trusted Traveler Programs (TTP) to provide expedited travel for pre-approved, low-risk travelers through dedicated lanes and kiosks.
  • $101M for Radiological and Nuclear Detection Equipment for detecting and interdicting illicit radioactive or nuclear materials by the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office and other DHS components.
  • $85.3M for the CBP Non-Intrusive Inspection (NII) program for passive radiation scanning and X-ray/gamma-ray imaging of cargo and conveyances
  • $373.5M is provided to maintain necessary border security infrastructure and technology to improve CBP’s ability to detect and interdict illegal activity
  • $480M for network security, including the EINSTEIN3 Accelerated program to detect and prevent malicious traffic
  • $102.6M for the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) program for hardware, software, and services that strengthen the operational network security
  • $1B to replace aging Coast Guard cutters, aircraft, electronic systems and shore infrastructure
  • An increase of $86.7M to enhance U.S. Secret Service capacity to protect senior leaders

Justice

The president’s budget request provides $28.7B in base discretionary funding to Justice, a 5% increase over FY 2015 enacted levels. These funds are intended to support core law enforcement needs, safe and secure prisons, and other Federal, State, Tribal and local programs.

Funding highlights include:

  • Strengthening investment in cybersecurity through over $200M in IT upgrades and tools to detect and deter cyber-attacks. Funds also support plans for a Federal Cyber Campus to co-locate critical civilian cybersecurity agencies.
  • Provides $97M to expand training and oversight for local law enforcement, increase the use of body worn cameras, and provide additional opportunities for reform through technical assistance and training.
  • $482M in funds to address the back log of immigration cases at the Executive Office of Immigration Review. These funds will support hiring judges and legal representation as well as expanding the Legal Orientation Program.
  • Efforts to combat violent extremism include $4M for research, $6M for model development, $2M for technical assistance, and $3M for projects to enhance collaboration between law enforcement, communities, and other stakeholders.
  • Credits applied to Justice’s discretionary budget authority for FY 2016 include $13.5B from the Crime Victims Fund (CVF) and $304M from the Assets Forfeiture Fund (AFF). Both of these figures are up from the FY 2015 enacted levels. The CVF is up 39% over FY 2015, while AFF is up 58% for the same period.

Transportation

The president’s budget request includes $14.3B in discretionary appropriations for the Department of Transportation, 3.5% less than the $13.8B enacted in Fiscal Year 2015.

Funding highlights include:

  • Creates a new Office of Safety Oversight to coordinate and improve safety efforts across all modes of transportation
  • Provides $956M in discretionary funding for modernization of the Next Generation Air Transportation System
  • Provides $478B in mandatory and discretionary funding over six years for a surface transportation reauthorization proposal, including:
    • $1.25B per year for the TIGER Grant program
    • $18B over six years for the President’s National Export Initiative
    • $23B for transit and passenger rail programs and $144B over six years to expand transit capital investment grants
    • $6B over six years to provide credit assistance for nationally or regionally significant transportation projects through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act Program
  • Provides $29.4B in mandatory and discretionary funding over six years for a Critical Immediate Safety Investments Program to provide targeted infrastructure investments
  • Provides nearly $6B in mandatory and discretionary funding over six years for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  • Invests $935M in mandatory and discretionary funding over six years for vehicle safety and innovation, including vehicle automation and vehicle-to-vehicle technologies

Treasury

The president’s budget request provides $12.8B in base discretionary budget authority to Treasury, a 4.9% increase over FY 2015 enacted levels.   

Funding highlights include:

  • Includes $2.9B for Treasury’s international assistance programs to promote economic growth, poverty reduction, action on climate change, and security through Multilateral Development Bank (MDB) investments in developing and emerging economies.
  • Funds increases in transparency and accountability in federal financial management and implements the Digital Transparency Act of 2014 (DATA Act). 
  • Proposes funding to transform Treasury’s digital services with the greatest impact to taxpayers and businesses so they are easier to use and more cost-effective to build and maintain.
  • Provides IRS with $12.3B in base discretionary resources, an increase of $1.3B from FY 2015, to restore taxpayer services to acceptable levels.  Funds are also provided to continue major IT projects, which aim to protect taxpayer information, modernize antiquated systems, continue development of a state-of-the-art online taxpayer experience. 

Veterans Affairs

The president’s budget request provides $70.2B in base discretionary budget authority to VA, a 7.8% increase over FY 2015 enacted levels. VA also received $15B in the Veteran Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014.

Funding highlights include:

  • Continues the largest department-wide transformation in VA’s history through MyVA, an effort to reorient the department around the needs of veterans.
  • Improves veterans’ access to medical care by investing $60B.
  • Supports improvements in veterans’ mental health care, telehealth care, life-saving treatment for Hepatitis C, specialized care for women veterans, long-term care, and benefits for veterans’ caregivers.
  • Provides $1.4B for programs aimed at ending veteran homelessness in 2015.
  • Strengthens veterans benefit programs by proposing an increase of $85M to hire 770 new staff to improve timeliness of non-rating claims, reduce the inventory of veterans’ appeals, strengthen the fiduciary program and further enhance disability claims processing accuracy and efficiency through centralized mail and the national work queue.

FY 2016 Federal Information Technology Budget Request

As of publishing time, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) had not yet published IT budget specifics, but topline numbers show a 2.5% increase for FY 2016. This puts the total IT request (including state and local grants and classified defense spending) at $86.4 billion compared to the FY 2015 estimate of $83.4B.

The administration’s priorities fall in line with many of the initiatives discussed in the FY 2015 request along with those launched by OMB and the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP).  Focus areas include:

  • $450 million to drive forward progress on cross-agency management priorities such as the U.S. Digital Service (USDS), PortfolioStat, Freeze the Footprint, and Open Data.
  • Providing funding to 25 agencies for the development of their own agency digital services teams.
  • Piloting new initiatives in IT acquisition that will increase digital acquisition capability within agencies, train agency personnel in digital IT acquisitions, and test innovative contracting models.
  • Increasing the use of Shared Services
  • Funding that will allow agencies to make progress in implementing the DATA Act and increase Federal spending transparency
  • Continue development of the government’s Category Management initiative to include:
    • Proposing legislation making it easier for vendors to bid on modestly-sized procurements and bringing more new companies into the Federal marketplace.
    • broadening the range of purchases that can be accomplished with minimal complexity and Government-unique requirements by requesting authority to raise the simplified acquisition threshold from $150,000 to $500,000.
    • Seeking new pilot authority to make it easier for agencies to set aside work for new small businesses and other firms with cutting edge/creative solutions that have limited experience selling to the federal government

Stay tuned to FIA as we will be publishing our complete analysis of the FY 2016 budget request in the coming weeks, where we will go into greater detail on the key initiatives, IT investments and contractor implications that will shape the federal IT marketplace for FY 2016.

Fellow GovWin Federal Industry Analysis (FIA) analysts Kyra Fussell, Deniece Peterson, Angela Petty and Alex Rossino contributed to this entry.

 

Federal Spending on Enterprise Business Systems Stays Strong

Ongoing initiatives to modernize government business systems offer prime examples of the ways federal agencies are looking to leverage technology transformation to achieve cost savings and efficiency gains. 

At end of 2014, Deltek’s Federal Industry Analysis team completed analysis of the market for business systems, identifying four segments characterized by different types of enterprise solutions. These four segments are financial management, asset and material management, human resources management, and administration and government management. 


Financial Management – The goal of improving financial management across the government has led to updated guidance for financial management system and shared services initiatives. Systems in this segment include solutions for payroll, accounting, invoice processing, budget formulation, and collections. This segment is expected to grow by 4.7% from FY 2014 to reach $3.4 billion in FY 2015.

 

Asset and Materials Management – Business systems for asset and materials management facilitate tighter asset control. Systems in this segment include solutions for supply chain management, inventory control, and fleet management. This segment remains flat from FY 2014 to 2015.

 

Human Resources Management – These systems support efforts to improve workforce performance. Solutions include personnel management, performance management, recruiting, and compensation management. This segment is expected to grow by 8.3% over FY 2014 levels to $3 billion.

 

Administration and Government Management – These systems include solutions for contract management, program management, customer relationship management, and travel management. Spending in this segment continues near FY2014 levels.

 

Deltek predicts contractor addressable spending on federal business systems to total $10.6 billion for FY 2015, increasing slightly over FY 2014 spending levels.  While many government efforts to improve business systems have been underway for some time, policies and legislative mandates continue to shape both the strategic direction and agency progress. For example, demand for improved business performance is underscored by reporting requirements and the need for increased financial transparency. The goal of reducing spending is also linked to efforts like adoption of shared services and plans to address auditability of financial systems. Ongoing budget pressure has increased the tendency to take an incremental approach to streamlining and enhancing government business operations.

 

Agencies making the largest investments in modernizations efforts include the Department of Defense, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs. Going forward, agencies are looking to continue advancing business system capabilities through mobile access and business analytics. The role of cloud environments is expected to expand, as only a small percentage of systems have completed migrated to cloud environments. Further exploration of the government initiatives targeting modernization of business systems is available in the recent Federal Industry Analysis report Federal Enterprise Business Systems, 2015.

 Originally published for Federal Industry Analysis: Analysts Perspectives Blog. Stay ahead of the competition by discovering more about GovWinIQ. Follow me on twitter @FIAGovWin.

 

Congress Passes FY 2015 Funding – Civilian Highlights, Part 1

The U.S. Congress passed an omnibus funding bill for the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2015 that includes $1.1 trillion in total in discretionary federal funds, roughly half of which goes to federal civilian departments and agencies.

Federal News Radio reported that the Senate voted 56-40 late Saturday for the bill that will fund most agencies through September, the end of FY 2015. The House of Representatives had voted two days earlier on the spending measure, passing it 219-206.

The final bill removes concerns over the possibility of government shutdowns for the rest of the fiscal year and address funding for each of the agencies covered under the twelve individual appropriations bills that traditionally make their way through Congress. The only exception in full-year funding is the Department of Homeland Security, which is funded by at continuing resolution (CR) levels through Feb. 27, 2015, due to congressional concerns over White House immigration plans. Future funding will be taken up by the next Congress.


 

Department Highlights

Energy

Department of Energy funding of $27.9B supports programs across the department’s five primary mission areas: science, energy, environment, nuclear non-proliferation, and national security.

  • National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA): Funding for NNSA sees an increase of $200M over FY 2014 levels to maintain the safety, security, and readiness of the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile. This increase brings NNSA’s funding to $11.4B for FY 2015.
  • Funding includes $8.2B for weapons activities as well as $1.2B for naval reactors. Advanced simulation and computing efforts receive $598.0M, including $50.0M for activities related to the exascale initiative.
  • Energy Programs: Support for programs that encourage U.S. competitiveness drive an increase of $22M over FY 2014 enacted levels, bringing funding for Energy Programs at DOE to $10.2B.
  • Science Research: Funding for energy science research is maintained at FY 2014 levels, providing $5,071M to strengthen innovation and support basic energy research, development of high-performance computing systems, and exploration into next generation clean energy solutions.
  • Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E): The advanced research organization ARPA-E receives $280.0M, $45M below the level requested for FY 2015.

Commerce

Department of Commerce funding of $8.5B marks an increase of $286M above the level enacted for FY 2014.

  • Patent and Trademark Office (PTO): $3,458M for the U.S. Patents and Trademark Office, the full estimated amount of offsetting fee collection for FY 2015. The Patents and Trademark Office had nearly $651M in unobligated balances at the end of FY 2014.
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST): $675.5M for the scientific and technical core programs at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
    • This amount includes $15M for the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence and up to $60.7M for cybersecurity research and development.
    • National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education receives $4M. These funds also provide $16.5M for the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC), which includes up to $6M for the lab-to-market program and up to $2M for urban dome programs.
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): $5,441M for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This amount includes $3,333.4M for coastal, fisheries, marine, weather, satellite, and other programs.
  • Census Bureau: $1,088M for the Bureau of the Census, which includes $840M for periodic censuses and programs.
  • International Trade Administration: $472M in total program resources for the International Trade Administration. $10M of those funds are expected to be offset by fee collection, resulting in a direct appropriation of $462M.  Of those funds, up to $9M ins for the Interagency Trade and Enforcement Center, up to $10M is for SelectUSA, and Global Markets are funded at levels at least equal to FY 2014.

Go to Part 2 of Civilian Highlights, or check out our Defense Highlights of the FY 2015 Omnibus here.

Fellow GovWin Federal Industry Analysis (FIA) analysts Kyra Fussell, Angela Petty, and Alex Rossino contributed to this entry.

Congress Passes FY 2015 Funding – Civilian Highlights, Part 3

The U.S. Congress passed an omnibus funding bill for the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2015 that includes $1.1 trillion in total in discretionary federal funds, roughly half of which goes to federal civilian departments and agencies. In part 3 we’ll look at Transportation, Treasury, and the VA.

Read our Civilian Highlights, Part 2.

Transportation

Department of Transportation receives $17.8B in discretionary funding, the same as the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and $4.8B below the president’s request.

  • $12.4B for the Federal Aviation Administration, $17M below the fiscal year 2014 enacted level. Funding is preserved for FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation Systems (NextGen) investment.
  • $1.6B for the Federal Railroad Administration, an increase of $23M above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level.
  • $2.3B for the Federal Transit Administration, an increase of $141M over the fiscal year 2014 enacted level.
  • $830M in both mandatory and discretionary funding for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an increase of $11M over the fiscal year 2014 enacted level
  • $584M for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, a decrease of $1M from the fiscal year 2014 enacted level.
  • $9.1M for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
  • $186M for the Maritime Security Program, the same level in the current authorization.

Treasury

The Department of the Treasury funding is part of the Financial Services Appropriations.  Treasury’s discretionary funding totals $12.5B for FY 2015.  Treasury highlights of the omnibus bill include the following:

  • $10.9B for the IRS, a reduction of $345.6M below FY 2014 and $1.5B below the president’s request. This amount includes $290M for business systems modernization.
  • $112M for Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.
  • The bill does not provide any additional funds for the IRS to implement the Affordable Care Act.
  • The bill contains several important oversight and policy provisions related to the IRS, to combat waste and increase accountability.

Veterans Affairs

The Department of Veterans Affairs funding is part of the broader Military Construction/Veterans Affairs Appropriations.  VA’s discretionary funding totals $65B for FY 2015.  VA highlights of the omnibus bill include the following:

  • $45.2B for VA medical services to provide care and treatment for approximately 6.7 million veterans. This includes: $7.2B in mental health care services; $133M in suicide prevention activities; $229M for traumatic brain injury treatment; $7.4B in homeless veterans treatment, services, housing, and job training; and $250M in rural health initiatives.
  • $209M to help address new costs related to the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 – such as hiring medical staff and expanding facility capacity and to implement the Caregivers Act, which provides stipends and other assistance to families of seriously wounded veterans.
  • $344M to help ensure DoD-VA EHRs that will seamlessly transfer medical information.
  • Requires the VA to create a truly interoperable, working system to help prevent unnecessary mistakes or delays in veterans’ medical care. If goals are not met, a portion of the funding will not be released.
  • $2.5B for disability claims processing backlog. This is $40M over the president’s budget request.  The increase is to be used to support digital scanning of claims, to hire additional claims processors in regional offices, and for the centralized mail initiative.
  • $99M to fund the Board of Veterans Appeals to address the looming appeals backlog.
  • $562M for major construction to correcting critical seismic deficiencies and repair crumbling infrastructure in some of the VA’s oldest structures.
  • $58.7B in advance FY 2016 appropriations for Veterans Medical Programs to provide for medical services, medical support and compliance, and medical facilities, and ensure that veterans have continued access to their medical care.

Check out our Defense Highlights of the FY 2015 Omnibus here.

Fellow GovWin Federal Industry Analysis (FIA) analysts Kyra Fussell, Angela Petty, and Alex Rossino contributed to this entry.

2014 Wastebook: $25 Billion in Dubious Federal Spending

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) recently released his annual report on federal waste, documenting nearly $25 billion in wasteful government spending, down from $30 billion documented last year. The report, Wastebook 2014, identifies 100 programs that in Senator Coburn’s words, “gives a snapshot of just a fraction of the countless frivolous projects the government funded in the past twelve months.”  

“Only someone with too much of someone else’s money and not enough accountability for how it was being spent could come up with some of the zany projects the government paid for this year,” states Coburn in the report.

Coburn’s research identifies federal funding for Swedish massages for rabbits at NIH and to teach monkeys how to play video games and gamble at the National Science Foundation.  For purposes of this blog, I’ve attempted to highlight programs that contain some form of IT or federal contracting implications, but I encourage you to browse through the entire 110 page report if for nothing more than amusement and entertainment purposes. 

State Department Tweets @ Terrorists – (State) $3M:  The State Department’s Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC) used a portion of its $3 million budget to create the Think Again Turn Away Twitter account, which provides a counter to the tweets of extremists.  Experts in the field of terrorism and extremism believe taxpayer money could be better spent on countering their efforts in other formats.

Facebook for Fossil Enthusiasts – (NSF) $1.97M:  A group of University of Florida researchers won a $1.97 million NSF grant to create a “web-based education community that connects people with a shared interest in paleontology” where users will be able to input data and request information from one other.

Social Security IT Project Wastes Hundreds of Millions – (SSA) $288M:  SSA’s project to update their system for tracking disability claims is five years into development and is still two to two-and-a-half years from completion with nearly $300 million already wasted and very limited functionality to date. 

NASA Loses Hundreds of Electronic Devices Each Month – (NASA) $1.1M: NASA has been issuing smartphones, tablets, and AirCards without keeping track of who has them or even if they are being used at all. Over 2,000 devices went unused for at least 7 months from 2013-2014.  The estimated cost of the unused and lost devices is at least $97,000 every month.

Identity Thieves Steal Billions Each Year with Bogus Tax Returns – (IRS) $4.2B:  Every year the IRS pays out billions of dollars in fraudulent refunds to clever criminals filing fake tax returns.  The Treasury Inspector General  predicts this number will only continue to grow, estimating the IRS could issue approximately $21 billion in fraudulent tax refunds resulting from identity theft” over five years, an average of $4.2 billion each year.

Coburn plans to retire, so this maybe the last wastebook report unless someone else picks up the torch.  

Coburn states in the introduction, “What I have learned from these experiences is Washington will never change itself. But even if the politicians won’t stop stupid spending, taxpayers always have the last word.  As you read through the entries presented in this report, ask yourself:  Is each of these a true national priority or could the money have been better spent on a more urgent need or not spent at all in order to reduce the burden of debt being left to be paid off by our children and grandchildren?”

The bottom line is that the federal government still has a long way to go in order to curb pet projects, wasteful spending, and fraud.   Federal agencies perpetually will face tighter budgets while endeavoring to become more efficient and effective.  In some cases, technology can help identify wasteful spending, and root out fraud and abuse.  Agencies will continue to strive to improve operations, processes, and payment accuracy in order to save taxpayers’ money, leaving the market ripe for continued contractor support, especially in the areas of financial management, payment accuracy, and fraud prevention.

 

IRS Could Save Millions with Better Software License Management

In late September, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) released a report identifying between $81 million and $114 million wasted because of “inadequate management of server software licenses.”

Software license management is part of an effective and efficient overall IT management program and is crucial to maintaining and supporting IRS business operations and taxpayer services. TIGTA conducted the audit of server software license management to assess IRS’ performance in this area of IT and to include their findings in their FY 2014 Annual Audit Plan.

TIGTA found that IRS’ management of server software licenses is not adequate and does not meet industry best practices.

Admittedly, software license management is difficult. However, it is a critical part of software asset management which involves managing, controlling, and protecting an organization’s software assets. Proper management of software licenses helps to minimize risks by ensuring that licenses are used in compliance with licensing agreements and cost-effectively deployed.

TIGTA has been conducting a number of IRS audits related to software management over the last year due to the complexity of the IRS software license environment. TIGTA carried out three separate audits: desktop and laptops, mainframes, and servers. In the two prior audits, TIGTA found that IRS did not:

  • Adequately perform software license management.
  • Adhere to federal requirements and recommended industry best practices.
  • Have enterprise-wide or local policies, procedures, and requirements for software license management.
  • Have defined roles and responsibilities and a centralized organizational structure for managing software licenses.
  • Use specialized software license tools designed to be the repository for software and software license deployment.
  • Have an accurate inventory of software and related licenses that contains licensing models applicable to each software product which links data on the licenses purchased and deployed.

IRS has been working to correct the above findings.

This most recent TIGTA audit focused exclusively on management of server software licenses and took place from May 2013 to March 2014.

TIGTA found the IRS does not effectively manage server software licenses. According to TIGTA findings:  

  • The IRS does not have defined policies and procedures or roles and responsibilities for server software license management.
  • The IRS does not use software license tools and does not maintain server license inventories in accordance with federal requirements and industry best practices.

TIGTA found that the IRS did not have license documentation for 11 out of 23 products reviewed. Additionally, for 15 of those software products, the IRS did not have documentation to track the number of licenses purchased versus the number deployed.

For IBM software products, the IRS did not have licenses for 43 products which cost approximately $1 million to $1.4 million per product. But IRS took issue with this finding, responding that TIGTA misinterpreted the licenses and what constitutes usage of perpetual licenses.

TIGTA recommended that the IRS include server software management in its enterprise-wide software management program currently under development. Better overall software license management at IRS would reduce IT risks, as well as provide cost savings.

IRS management agreed with the recommendation, and server software is already being considered as a component of the enterprise-wide software management program. Additionally, an Enterprise Software

Governance Board and Working Group have been established to develop a standardized process for ensuring consistency in asset management across the enterprise.

 

 

 

The DATA Act: The Road to Federal Funding and Spending Transparency

The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA) promises to lend visibility into the world of federal finances, and as such has received a good deal of attention since it was signed into law four months ago.  

The purpose of the act is to 

  • Disclose direct federal agency expenditures and link federal contract, loan, and grant spending information to federal programs to enable taxpayers and policy makers to track federal spending more effectively.  
  • Establish government-wide data standards for financial data and provide consistent, reliable, and searchable government-wide spending data that is displayed accurately for taxpayers and policy makers on USASpending.gov.  
  • Simplify reporting for entities receiving federal funds by streamlining reporting requirements and reducing compliance costs while improving transparency.  
  • Improve the quality of data submitted to USASpending.gov by holding federal agencies accountable for the completeness and accuracy of the data submitted. 
  • Apply approaches developed by the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board to spending across the federal government.

Work has already begun to meet the seven year implementation timeline.   OMB and Treasury are tasked with delivering data standards by May 2015.   Agencies are to start submitting data that meets the new standards before May 2017. 

The DATA Act is different from other transparency laws in that oversight is baked into implementation requirements.  The Act calls for agency Inspectors General, in conjunction with GAO, to audit samples of spending data submitted to USASpending.gov to test for quality, timeliness, completeness and accuracy and to report findings to Congress three times over the next six years.  The first IG reports are due to Congress in November 2016.

On September 26th, Treasury released an RFI for the best data exchange standards implemented across the government or in the private sector.  Treasury and OMB are also creating a 12 to 36 month implementation roadmap. 

At a Data Transparency 2014 event in DC earlier this week, Dave Mader the controller of OMB said, "This will be a very iterative approach and we will rely on lessons learned, and we also will look at opportunities to experiment because we don't want to do, nor does anyone have the resources to build the world's biggest database. We believe that technology and data, and data analytics will allow us to create a very innovative approach for how to implement the next iteration of spending that's transparent to taxpayers."

Contractors will be affected by requirements to report data as a recipient of federal funds.  Also, opportunities will likely arise to assist with implementation of the act in the way of technology solutions for data entry, storage, retrieval, analysis and display.

 

Raising the Stakes of Contractor Past Performance Information

Contractor past performance information is one tool federal agencies are being pressed to use more effectively to guard against acquisition risk and recent White House acquisition policy and a Government Accountability Office (GAO) assessment signals that the pressure in this area will only continue to grow. Some efforts are fairly standard government approaches, but others expand into new areas and have implications for both agencies and their contracting companies.

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) has issued numerous reporting compliance guidelines and recommendations over the last half-decade or more to move agencies to improve their reporting of contractor past performance. Further, Congress has included past performance reporting mandates in the last several National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAA). In typical fashion, GAO is looking for continued signs that these efforts are materializing so that agencies have this information available to make informed acquisition decisions.

Most Agencies Fall Short of Contractor Past Performance Reporting Compliance Targets

In August, the GAO released an assessment of how federal agencies were doing with regard to improving their reporting of contractor past performance information. According to OFPP’s annual reporting performance targets, agencies should have been at least 65 percent compliant by the end of fiscal year 2013. GAO found that agencies generally have improved their level of compliance with past performance reporting requirements issued by OFPP. However, the rate of compliance varies widely by agency and most have not met OFPP targets. As of April 2014, for the top 10 agencies, based on the number of contracts requiring an evaluation, the compliance rate ranged from 13 to 83 percent and only two of the top 10 agencies were above 65 percent compliance. (See chart below.)


 

OFPP Expanding Scope of Contractor Past Performance Information

In July, the OFPP directed agencies to research past performance more deeply before awarding complex IT development, systems and services contracts greater than $500 thousand in value. Further, OFPP directed agencies to expand the scope of the research processes used to collect contractors’ past performance information during source selection.

In order to have the most relevant, recent, and meaningful information about potential contracting partners considered in the pre-award phase of the acquisition process agencies were instructed to have their acquisition officials perform the following steps:

  • Recent Contracts - Contact contracting officers (COs) and/or Program Managers (PMs) on at least 2 of contractors’ largest, most recent contracts to review work history.
  • News Searches – a Review articles and publications (include. GAO and IG reports) on contractor performance and business integrity.
  • Commercial Sources - Review public sources and databases for business reviews, customer evaluations, contractor management reports, etc.
  • References – a Request 3-5 references from public and commercial customers, partners, subcontractors, etc. for work done in past 3-5 years.
  • Teaming Partners – Request past performance information on subcontractors and team arrangements.

Implications

The impacts on agencies and contractors alike include greater time and effort (i.e. expense) in collecting and providing this performance information. This will stretch an already-overly-tasked federal acquisitions workforce even further and will require that contractors pay broader attention to their performance reputations and those of their teaming partners.

The new OFPP directives and others like them will also likely extend the time it takes to complete the source selection process on applicable acquisitions, at least until all sides of the acquisition process build some repeatable processes and efficiencies into their systems.

What we can hope for in the end is more transparency, better managed acquisitions with fewer protests, and overall better performing contracts that meet the government’s goals with economy and efficiency and provide business growth opportunities along the way.

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Originally published in the GovWin FIA Analysts Perspectives Blog. Follow me on Twitter @GovWinSlye.

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