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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.

 

Reducing Areas of Duplication and Overlap in Federal Programs Could Save Billions

Last week, GAO released its fifth annual report on duplication, fragmentation and overlap in federal government programs.  The report is meant to identify areas of opportunity to gain efficiencies, reduce costs, and increase federal revenue by decreasing duplication and overlap.

The report identifies 24 areas of opportunity to improve effectiveness and efficiency, and 66 new actions to this end.  In this year’s report GAO found 12 new areas in which there is evidence of fragmentation, overlap, or duplication, such as the Military Health System US Family Health Plan which duplicates the efforts of DoD’s managed care support contractors.  GAO also offers recommendations for reducing the cost of government operations or enhancing revenue collections in 12 other areas.

Many of the identified areas for improvement involve defense or health related programs and activities, but the report did point out that hundreds of millions of dollars could be saved government-wide if agencies applied better management of software licenses.  GAO suggests OMB issue a directive to assist agencies in this area.

The report also reviewed progress toward areas and actions identified in previous reports to reduce fragmentation, duplication and overlap. 

The chart below shows progress toward ending duplication and overlap in areas identified in FY 2011-2014 reports, as well as progress toward specific actions offered in those reports.

According to GAO, 76% of 458 actions identified had been addressed or partially addressed, and 20% had not been addressed.  Executive branch and congressional efforts to address these actions over the past 4 years have resulted in over $20B in financial benefits, with about $80B more in financial benefits anticipated in future years from these actions.

GAO urged Congress and executive branch agencies to continue progress toward reducing duplication and overlap. Fully addressing the remaining actions identified in GAO’s annual reports could lead to tens of billions of dollars of additional savings.

GAO recognizes the difficulty in addressing duplication and fragmentation, in part due to the lack of reliable performance and budget data.  It suggests that implementation of the DATA Act and the GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 should improve the amount and reliability of financial and performance information.  GAO has also developed an Evaluation and Management Guide to assist agencies in identifying and resolving fragmentation and overlap, and options to consider for addressing or managing such instances.

 

 

Federal Improper Payment Rate Rises for First Time in Five Years

The federal improper payment rate rose from 3.5% of program outlays in FY 2013 to 4.5% in FY 2014, amounting to $124.7 billion up nearly $19 billion from FY 2013.

The federal government hasn’t seen a rise in the improper payment rate since FY 2009 when improper payments rose 5.4% over the FY 2008 rate.  According to paymentaccuracy.gov, the improper payment goal for FY 2014 was 3.19% of total program outlays. 

According to a recent GAO report on fragmentation, overlap, duplication, and improper payments, the rate increase was primarily due to estimates for Medicare, Medicaid, and the Earned Income Tax Credit, which account for over 76% of the government-wide estimate.  The improper payment totals span 124 federal programs across 22 agencies. 

Comptroller General Gene Dodaro told the Senate Budget Committee last week that the government has made progress in addressing program duplication and fragmentation.  “For the first time in recent years, the government-wide improper payment estimate significantly increased.”

GAO has made numerous recommendations it asserts could improve program management and help reduce improper payments such as improving the use of prepayment edits in Medicare and requiring states to audit Medicaid payments to and by managed care organizations.

Attention has been focused on improper payments for a number of years resulting in the enactment of the 2002, 2010 and 2012 improper payments acts.  Until this past fiscal year, agencies have made headway in rooting out waste, fraud and abuse leading to a decline in improper payments and improper payment rates.  However, agencies continue to face challenges, such as statutory limitations and compliance issues, in reducing improper payments.

OMB is in the process of updating some of its guidance to help agencies more easily identify improper payments.  OMB is updating Circular A-123 to include GAO standards for internal management control assessments to limit fraud.  The new Appendix C of A-123 will do the following:  

  • Reconcile most recent improper payment act requirements (IPERIA)  
  • Consolidate and streamline reporting requirements  
  • Provide more detailed categorization of improper payments and establish a taxonomy  
  • Add on an internal control framework for addressing improper payments

 

In an interview with Federal News Radio, OMB Controller David Mader stated, "OMB will be working closely with several of the departments over the course of 2015 to see if we can better understand what is driving the improper payment rate, and then stepping back and saying to ourselves, 'can we mitigate that risk, because it is a risk, by changing business processes, introducing technology, bringing in new data to look at and/or do we need some legislative fixes?'"

 

Agencies Most Adept at Implementing GAO Recommendations for IT

In the wake of GAO’s new high risk report which added IT acquisition to its ranks, Deloitte’s Advanced Analytics and Modeling (AAM) practice released a study of the effectiveness of GAO’s recommendations over time which showed that agencies are most adept at implementing GAO recommendations for information technology and IT security.

The report, entitled “Accountability Quantified:  What 26 years of GAO reports can teach us about government management,” set out to determine if GAO recommendations were an effective way to drive targeted change within agencies.  Additionally, Deloitte wanted to “use GAO as an example of how agencies can better structure their internal oversight activities to quantify accountability and drive results.”  For the report, Deloitte analyzed 1.3 million pages of GAO reports using text analytics and analyzed the 40,000-plus recom­mendations made by GAO from 1983 through 2014.

Summaries of their findings for seven key questions are listed below:

The study found that agencies show the highest rate of success at implementing GAO recommendations in the areas of information security, information technology, education, and equal opportunity.  Information security logged a 94% completion rate and information technology an 87% completion rate.  These results may seem counter intuitive due to the bad press and scrutiny that federal IT programs have received in recent months.  However, GAO’s recommendations are often tactical and not large-scale enterprise solutions or system changes, making it easier for agencies to comply.

Unfortunately, repeated recommendations to an agency in the same area do not improve an agency’s success rate.  The study found, “There is no meaningful relationship between how many recommendations an agency receives in a specific area and how often they succeed in that area.”  

Additionally, it’s worth noting that adoption of recommendations was studied over nearly a 30 year period.  So, although agencies showed that they had implemented a high number of IT recommendations, this took place over an extended period of time and repeated prodding by GAO did little to hasten fixes. 

Deloitte offers that because of GAO’s high success rate in the information technology space, it may have room to increase the number and strength of the specific recommenda­tions it gives around IT security issues.  On a broader scale, Deloitte recommends that GAO and agencies apply more standardization to their oversight data in order to analyze and interpret it more easily.  Specifically Deloitte recommends the following next steps:    

  • Keep score by tracking where their recommendations are succeeding or failing.  
  • Convert reports to a text analytics-friendly electronic format.  
  • Establish a coding structure for reports.  
  • Uncover hidden trends. Develop a standard taxonomy for over­sight reporting terms.  
  • Develop real-time accountability score­cards—and make them public.  

 

 

GAO Updates High Risk Programs List

Yesterday, GAO released its biennial update of federal high risk programs, a total of 32 programs including two new areas, Veterans Health Care and IT Acquisitions and Operations.

Since the list’s inception in 1990 with an initial slate of 14 program areas, 43 programs have been added and 23 removed.  GAO removes programs from the list when the following criteria are met: leadership commitment, agency capacity, an action plan, monitoring efforts, and demonstrated progress.

This year GAO states that progress is being made, but no programs were removed.  Eighteen of the 30 programs on the list in 2013 partially met criteria for removal and 11 met at least one of the criteria for removal.  GAO is reducing the scope of two high risk areas, Protecting Public Health through Enhanced Oversight of Medical Products and DoD Contract Management, due improvements made.  GAO is expanding its oversight of two other programs due to growing risk potential:  Enforcement of Tax Laws and Ensuring the Security of Federal Information Systems and Cyber Critical Infrastructure and Protecting the Privacy of Personally Identifiable Information (PII).

GAO is adding the program entitled Managing Risks and Improving Veterans Affairs Health Care due to VA’s lack of action on many of GAO’s past recommendations to improve veteran health care access and delivery.  Although VA has taken some action, work still remains in the areas of policies and processes, oversight and accountability, IT, training, and resources.

GAO is also adding the program entitled Improving the Management of Information Technology Acquisitions and Operations.  Despite legislation and administrative efforts to improve IT acquisitions and management, investments are still experiencing cost overruns, schedule lapses, and failure in some cases.  According to GAO’s report, “Over the past 5 years, GAO made more than 730 recommendations; however, only about 23% had been fully implemented as of January 2015.”

Efforts to improve IT acquisition and management will directly affect federal contractors, adding to increased scrutiny of contractor performance and potentially increasing required project performance documentation. Additionally, program areas such as those that are benefits based, may offer opportunities for technology contractors.  Federal demand for IT solutions to combat waste, fraud and abuse will continue to increase over the next several years.  Such products and services include technologies for pre-screening and identity authentication; data capture and processing; examination and detection; big data and analytics; and investigation, prosecution and recovery.

Through Congressional oversight and legislation, along with OMB leadership and agency accountability and corrective actions, vast improvements have been made to areas remaining on the high risk list.  Continued diligence by agencies in implementing GAO recommendations will lead to continued progress and elimination of federal program areas from the list.  

 

Analyzing Federal Program Overlap is Difficult at Best

Finding duplicative federal programs in order to combine, consolidate, or eliminate them is next to impossible with current reporting mechanisms according to a recent GAO report. 

The GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 calls for the creation of an inventory of all federal programs, along with related budget and performance data, which could make it easier to better manage, reduce, or eliminate overlap and duplication.  Over the past four years, GAO has found over 90 areas where the government could benefit from reducing or removing fragmentation and duplication.

However, GAO’s recent report on the status of federal program inventories indicates that inconsistent definitions and information limit their usefulness.  OMB’s inventory guidance allowed for latitude regarding defining programs and the types of information reported.  This has led to non-uniform information across agencies, and made it difficult to spot duplication and overlap. 

Something which seems as simple as just defining what constitutes a “program” is a challenge across agencies.  OMB’s guidance has allowed flexibility in defining programs by allowing agencies to use different approaches based on their missions and programmatic tactics.  But because of these differing approaches, identifying similar programs across agencies is a challenge.

As part of GAO’s study, they attempted to locate programs across agencies related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEMS) using the agency inventories released by OMB in May 2013.  GAO only found nine programs out of 179 that matched exactly, and 51 others that were identified based on their program descriptions. 

GAO attributes the lack of comparability to the fact that the agencies did not work together when developing their inventories.  GAO believes collaboration among the agencies on program definitions and inventories would lead to identifying overlap and duplication. 

GAO recommends OMB and agencies take the following steps to ensure usefulness of program inventories: 

  • Present program-level budget information 
  • Provide complete performance information 
  • Consult with stakeholders

GAO further recommends that OMB require additional agencies to report inventories.  Currently, GPRAMA only requires 24 agencies to report.  GAO also suggests that tax expenditures be included in the federal program inventory, as well as web-based sorting capabilities. 

Threatening to complicate reporting even further, is the on-going implementation of the 2014 Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) which stipulates more program and budget data be displayed on federal websites.

Rooting out duplication, overlap and waste will be an iterative and on-going process.  Contractors need to be aware of advances in identifying overlapping programs, because progress could result in program, project and/or contract consolidations or cuts.  On the flip side, opportunities may arise for contractor assistance with program consolidation efforts.

 

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.

 

Federal Agencies Lag in Software License Management per GAO

Federal agencies spend more than $80 billion on IT each fiscal year, much of it on software licenses. Given budget pressures, the effective management of the thousands of software licenses could result in significant economies and budget savings. But a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report shows that agencies have a long way to go in effectively managing software.

In a recently published report, GAO found that the majority of agencies have some software license management policies, but they are not comprehensive. Further, OMB has not established directive policy guidance on licensing management policy. Therefore, GAO assessed agencies based on seven elements that they identified that a comprehensive software licensing policy should specify (emphasis added):

  • Identify clear roles, responsibilities, and central oversight authority within the department for managing enterprise software license agreements and commercial software licenses;
  • Establish a comprehensive inventory (80 percent of software license spending and/or enterprise licenses in the department) by identifying and collecting information about software license agreements using automated discovery and inventory tools;
  • Regularly track and maintain software licenses to assist the agency in implementing decisions throughout the software license management life cycle;
  • Analyze software usage and other data to make cost-effective decisions;
  • Provide training relevant to software license management;
  • Establish goals and objectives of the software license management program; and
  • Consider the software license management life-cycle phases (i.e., requisition, reception, deployment and maintenance, retirement, and disposal phases) to implement effective decision making and incorporate existing standards, processes, and metrics.

GAO reviewed 24 agencies’ policies on software license management against these seven elements and gave each a composite assessment. (See table below.)

Composite GAO Assessment of 24 Agencies’ Policies on Managing Software Licenses


Key:

? Fully—the agency provided evidence that it fully addressed the seven elements of a comprehensive software license policy.

? Partially—the agency provided evidence that it addressed some, but not all, of the seven elements of a comprehensive license policy.

? Not—the agency did not provide any evidence that it addressed any of the seven elements of a comprehensive license policy.

Only two agencies – DHS and Labor – have developed comprehensive policies for managing software licenses. At the other end, four agencies – Commerce, HHS, Interior, and NSF – had not developed any department-wide policies for managing software licenses. The rest fell in between.

GAO recommended that OMB issue a directive to the agencies on developing comprehensive software licensing policies comprised of the seven elements identified by GAO. OMB’s existing PortfolioStat and Strategic Sourcing initiatives give leeway to agencies to determine what priority software licenses receive in the reviews, which means much more could be done on software efficiencies.

Implications

GAO noted that the wide variance in the form and completeness of data provided by agencies regarding their most widely used applications made it impossible to accurately determine the most widely used software applications across the government, including the extent to which these were over and under purchased.

Further, the limited or outright lack of agency oversight of software license spending means they are likely missing significant opportunities to save money. GAO noted some positive examples, including where DHS’s negotiated enterprise licensing agreements led to cost avoidance of $181 million in FY 2012. Further, DHS estimated future savings of around $376 million from FY 2013 to FY 2015. Extrapolated across all departments, that could free up billions of dollars in savings each year to be reinvested in other areas of IT or repurposed to other missions. 

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

FY 2015 President’s Budget Request – A First Take

The White House released its much-anticipated FY 2015 Budget request yesterday, a month past its legal and historical due date. Several of my fellow GovWin Federal Industry Analysis (FIA) colleagues and I dug right into reading the budget so that we could provide you with our first impressions of what we found noteworthy.

Like any presidential budget, the FY 2015 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 and information technology (IT) budgets to get a sense of direction and priorities for FY 2015, which begins October 1, 2014. Below is a summary table followed by key funding details and initiatives arranged by department.

 

Defense

DoD’s budget request is down this year as FY 2015 discretionary funding of $495.6B represents a 0.8% decrease from the FY 2014 enacted budget of $496B.

Funding highlights include:

  • $120.3B for the Army (a decrease of $1.3B from the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $147.6B for the Navy (an increase of $300M from the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $137.7B for the Air Force (an increase of $3B from the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $89.8B for Defense-Wide operations (a decrease of $2.5B from the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $199B for DoD operations and maintenance funding (an increase of $6B from the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $90.3B for DoD procurement funding (a decrease of $2B from the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $63.5B in DoD RDT&E funding (a decrease of $700M from the FY 2014 enacted level)

Provisions of Interest

  • $128M for military infrastructure in Guam, $51M of which is to establish facilities for Marine Air-Ground Task Forces throughout the region
  • $47.4B for the DoD Unified Medical Budget
  • $2.9B for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
  • $11.5B for basic and applied research and advanced technology development

Agriculture

The USDA’s budget request is down this year as FY 2015 discretionary funding of $23B represents a 4% decrease from the FY 2014 enacted level of $24B.

Funding highlights include:

  • $7.2B for the Food and Nutrition Service (an increase of $124M from the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $4.8B for the Forest Service (a decrease of $700M from the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $2.4B for Rural Development (a decrease of $400M from the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $1.8B for the Foreign Agricultural Service (same as the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $1.5B for the Farm Service Agency (a decrease of $100M from the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $1.1B for the Agricultural Research Service (same as the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $1B for the Food Safety and Inspection Service (same as the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $837M for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (a decrease of $8M from the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $815M for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (a decrease of $14M from the FY 2014 enacted level)

Provisions of Interest

  • The Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative provides funding to build a new biosafety research laboratory in Athens, GA
  • $45.2M for the USDA OCIO
  • $15M for IT investments for the Comprehensive Loan Program (CLP)
  • $44 million to address climate change’s risk to agriculture, including investments in cyber infrastructure for big data

Commerce

The president’s budget request provides $8.8B in base discretionary funding to Commerce, a 6% increase over FY 2014 enacted levels.  It requests $2B in IT funding, an increase of 5.3% over FY 2014 enacted levels. 

Funding highlights include:

  • Provides funding for NIST to accelerate advances in areas such as cybersecurity and advanced manufacturing
  • Supports key trade promotion activities to stimulate economic growth
  • Seeks to promote business investment in the US to create jobs and promote US competitiveness
  • Provides $753M for innovative design methods for achieving the lowest cost possible 2020 decennial census
  • Establishes up to 45 manufacturing innovation institutes across the US
  • Continues strong support of NOAA, including $2B to continue the development of polar-orbiting and geostationary weather satellite systems
  • Provides $1.6B for research and development
  • Funds a new investment line item for modernizing IT and business processes at PTO ($64.4M)

Energy

The DOE’s budget request is up this year as FY 2015 discretionary funding of $27.9B represents a 2.6% increase over the FY 2014 enacted level of $27.2B.

Funding highlights include:

  • $11.7B for the National Nuclear Security Administration (an increase of $M from the 2014 enacted level)
  • $6.0B for Department Management and Performance (a decrease of $200M from the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $5.1B for Science Programs (an increase of $100M from the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $4.0B for Energy Programs (an increase of $300M from the FY 2014 enacted level)

Provisions of Interest

  • $180M in R&D to facilitate the transition to a Smart Grid
  • $325M for Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy programs
  • $141M ($91M in Science and $50M in NNSA) for R&D related to exascale computing
  • More than $300M for DOE cyber security initiatives

Health and Human Services

The president’s budget request provides $77.1B in base discretionary funding to HHS, a 1.7% decrease over FY 2014 enacted levels.  It requests $8.6B in IT funding, a decrease of 10.4% over FY 2014 enacted levels. 

Funding highlights include:

  • Supports the Affordable Care Act and operation of the Health Insurance Marketplace
  • Provides $30.2B to NIH for medical research
  • Improves mental health services for youth and families
  • Invests in payment innovations and other reforms for Medicare and Medicaid and other federal health programs to improve program integrity and delivery of high-quality, efficient health care
  • Invests in a new initiative to improve access to high-quality health care providers
  • Funds construction of two new Indian Health Service health care facilities
  • Increases the investment in CMS IT infrastructure by $58.6M, a 19.4% gain
  • Increases the investment in CMS Healthcare Fraud Prevention Partnership (HFPP) by $17M, a 354% increase
  • Decreases IT funding for the CMS  investment that developed the health insurance marketplace (-$297M) and transfers to states for CMS Medicaid Management Information System (-$618M) 

Homeland Security

DHS is slated to receive $38.2B in base discretionary funding in the president’s budget request, a 2.6% decrease over FY 2014 enacted levels. The budget also includes and $6.8B for disaster relief. The budget requests $5.8B in IT funding which includes a $3M reduction from the FY 2014 enacted levels, a 0.1% decrease year over year.

Funding highlights include:

  • $514M for research and development in homeland security technology and developing state-of-the-art solutions for first responders – target opportunities in cybersecurity, explosives detection, nuclear detection, and chemical and biological detection.
  • $300M to initiate construction in 2015 of the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility to study large animal zoonotic diseases and develop countermeasures
  • $124M to support, expand, and enhance E-Verify system to aid U.S. employers with employment legality verification
  • $112.5M for Secure Flight, under which DHS conducts passenger watch list
  • $3.8B for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening operations. Supports risk-based security initiatives at the Transportation Security Administration that enhance the efficiency of passenger screening operations, while improving the customer experience for the traveling public.
  • $1.25B for cybersecurity activities including:
    • $377.7M for Network Security Deployment, including the EINSTEIN3 Accelerated (E3A) program
    • $143.5M for the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) program
    • $173.5M to support ICE cyber and cyber-enabled investigations of cyber-crime, etc.
    • $28M for the classified Homeland Secure Data Network to security and info sharing
    • $67.5M for Cybersecurity/Information Analysis Research and Development
    • $8.5M to establish a voluntary program and an enhanced cybersecurity services capability to support Executive Order 13636, Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity
    • $3.9M for Secret Service Cybersecurity Presidential Protection Measures to support monitoring of protective sites which directly or indirectly support a Presidential visit

Justice

The president’s budget request provides $27.4B in discretionary funding for the Justice department, $122M above the 2014 enacted level – for DOJ core law enforcement needs, safe and secure prisons, and other Federal, State, and local programs. DoJ’s IT budget is just slightly better than flat (+0.4%) year-over-year at $27.4B.

Funding highlights include:

  • $722M for cybersecurity efforts to combat increasingly sophisticated and rapidly evolving cyber threats
  • $13M to the FBI for investment in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System as part of the DOJ’s overall $182M budget for Federal, State, and local gun violence reduction efforts
  • $8.4B for Federal prisons and detention facilities, to maintain secure prison facilities and to continue bringing newly completed or acquired prisons online
  • $15M under the Smart on Crime initiative for prisoner reentry programs and for Prevention and Reentry Coordinators
  • $15M to expand the Residential Drug Abuse Program at the Federal level and $14M to expand the Residential Substance Abuse Treatment program at the state level
  • $1.7M to develop new multidisciplinary program evaluation and policy analysis capability to improve budget, management, and policy decisions
  • $299M for the Department’s Juvenile Justice Programs
  • $423M (roughly half of which are grants) to combat violent crimes against women
  • $9M to establish a National Center for Building Community Trust and Justice to promote procedural fairness in policing, use deterrence strategies to reduce crime, and encourage police departments to track the quality of their interactions with the public

Transportation

DOT’s budget request is down this year as FY 2015 discretionary funding of $13.7B represents a 2.14% decrease from the FY 2014 enacted level of $14B.

Funding highlights include:

  • $48.6B for the Federal Highway Administration (an increase of $7.2B from the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $15.3B for the Federal Aviation Administration (a decrease of $584M from the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $4.9B for the Federal Railroad Administration (an increase of $3.3B from the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $17.6B for the Federal Transit Administration (an increase of $6.9B from the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $851M in mandatory and discretionary funding for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (an increase of $32M from the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $669M for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (an increase of $97M from the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $261M for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (an increase of $51M from the FY 2014 enacted level)

Provisions of Interest

  • $302B four-year surface transportation reauthorization proposal to support critical infrastructure projects
  • Funding for FAA NextGen investments is preserved
  • $370 million for National Airspace System Sustainment
  • $5M for cyber security initiatives, a decrease of $7M from the FY 2014 enacted level

Treasury

The president’s budget request provides $12.4B in base discretionary funding to Treasury, a 1.5% decrease over FY 2014 enacted levels.  However, provides total resources of $13.8B which is a $1.2B increase partially funded by proposed program integrity caps. It requests $4B in IT funding, an increase of 13.4% over FY 2014 enacted levels. 

Funding highlights include:

  • Continues implementation of the Affordable Care Act
  • Continues implementation of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to create a more stable  and responsible financial system
  • Invests $12.5B in the IRS, which includes a $480M program integrity cap adjustment.  Aimed at improving enforcement of current tax laws and reducing the current tax gap.  Includes more than a $100M increase to improve customer service, and an additional $165M is proposed to further enhance customer service through the Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative
  • $1.5B for a new round of State Small Business Credit Initiatives
  • Expands the level of detail and capabilities of sorting federal spending data to enable better use of the data
  • Calls for a $227M increase to the IRS Main Frames and Servers Services and Support investment over FY 2014 levels

Veterans Affairs

The president’s budget request provides $65.3B in base discretionary funding to VA, a 3% increase over FY 2014 enacted levels, giving VA total budget authority of $68.4B which includes $3.1B of estimated medical care collections.  The budget requests $4B in IT funding, an increase of 4.7% over FY 2014 enacted levels.

Funding highlights include:

  • $56B for VA medical care, and $58.7B in advanced funding for FY16 appropriations for medical care
  • Emphasis on ending veterans’ homelessness. ($1.6B) Working with HUD
  • Supports continued improvements in delivery of mental health care and telehealth technologies ($7B)
  • $1B in mandatory funding to help put veterans back to work protecting and rebuilding America
  • An additional $400M for high priority capital projects
  • Invests $138.7M in the Veterans Claims Intake Program and $173.3M for the Veterans Benefit Management System to address the claims backlog

Stay tuned to FIA as we will be publishing our complete analysis of the FY 2015 budget request later this month, 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 2015.

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

Balancing Privacy with Efforts to Reduce Fraud and Waste

A key element to being able to identify waste and fraud is data analysis:  the ability to match disparate data sources to spot anomalies or trends.  However, many federal data sets contain data protected by privacy legislation.  Agencies must balance citizen and corporate privacy with efforts to root out waste, fraud and abuse. 

 

According to OMB, improper payment rates continue to decline, dropping from 5.42% in FY2009 to 3.53% in FY2013.  Improper payments occur when funds go to the wrong recipient, payment is made in the wrong amount, documentation is not available to support a payment, or the recipient uses funds in an improper manner. Although OMB hasn’t published the total amount of improper payments to date, using total program spending figures from prior years would position FY2013 improper payments around $100 billion.

 

In January, GAO released a report on the Computer Matching Act which governs privacy when agencies share data sets to ID waste and fraud.  GAO concluded that agencies have taken a number of steps to implement the elements of the act, but implementation across the seven agencies studied has not been consistent and a number of agencies stated that the act’s rigorous requirements and short time frames discouraged them from pursuing computer matching agreements (CMAs) with other agencies.  GAO recommended that OMB revise its guidance and that selected agencies develop and implement policies and procedures for cost-benefit analyses and establish annual reviews and reporting.

 

OMB is responsible for developing guidelines for execution of the Computer Matching Act, while agencies are responsible for implementation to include: 

  • Developing CMAs and notifying OMB, Congress and the public
  • Conducting cost benefit analysis for proposed matching programs
  • Establishing data integrity boards to oversee matching programs

 

All the agencies that GAO reviewed had established at least one CMA, but differed in their understanding of whether CMAs were required for data queries.   SSA had established the most CMAs with a total of 34.  Agencies generally conducted cost benefit analyses, but did not use key elements to determine value of computer matching programs.  OMB has not yet release guidance for development of cost benefit analyses.  Finally, although agency data integrity boards have been established, reporting varies widely.

 

OMB needs to offer further guidance to agencies to foster more consistent implementation of the Computer Matching Act.   Judging from the number of CMAs currently in place for the seven agencies GAO reviewed, there is potential for future CMAs among agencies.  Additional implementation of CMAs and the Computer Matching Act could further assist in decreasing the federal government’s $100 billion in annual improper payments.  The market to reduce waste and fraud remains ripe for contractor support in areas such as data authentication, analytics, predictive modeling, forensic accounting, and fraud case management.

 

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