FY2015 President's Budget Rumored to Emphasize Technology and Innovation

Published: February 12, 2014


Federal CIO Steve VanRoekel indicated at last week’s ACT-IAC “Igniting Innovation” event that the FY2015 President’s Budget contains “the prevailing theme” of technology and innovation. “It drives everything we do,” according to VanRoekel.

VanRoekel could not offer specifics, because the budget has not yet been presented to Congress.  The budget is scheduled for release on March 4th.  VanRoekel went on to say, “We have a modest tech budget compared to the federal budget, but we are moving a sector of the economy through our actions.”

I was initially surprised by VanRoekel’s statements given that the State of the Union address contained no mention of IT, other than cybersecurity, and only minor allusions to investments in broader areas of technology such as R&D, connecting students to the internet, and increasing energy efficiency and independence.  

Also, as reported by Jason Miller with Federal News Radio, the IT budget passback guidance from OMB was less than informative or enlightening about administrative IT priorities.  The only new requirement for agencies in 2013 was to submit a plan to give CIOs more authority over commodity IT spending.  Beyond that, OMB set no new IT goals or new requirements.   

The lack of emphasis on IT in the State of the Union and the thin IT budget passback, led me to wonder if the upcoming budget might somehow skirt deep discussion or focus on IT.  However, avoiding or downgrading IT prominence in the FY2015 budget request would be surprising given Congress’ recent heightened interest and criticism of federal IT projects and procurement.  

Possibly one of the more telling remarks made by VanRoekel at the ACT-IAC event was the advice to “Think small.”  He denounced the prevalent attitude that in order “to do more, you must spend more.”  He encouraged agencies to consider what they could do under the simplified acquisition threshold or for even as little as $10k.  

Could this be a clue to the IT themes we might see in the President’s Budget in the coming weeks:  a push to increase innovation, but without funding increases, potentially with funding decreases?  I would not be surprised.  This would fit the persistent mantra of “doing more with less.”  Creativity and innovation on a shoestring budget will likely be the federal IT refrain for the foreseeable future.