March 06, 2014
by Mark Rockwell, FCW

IT budget numbers are flat for civilian agencies and lower for Defense, the Senate won’t write a budget again this year, and nobody expects the president’s proposal to get a serious hearing in Congress, but an acquisition industry expert is happy that at least something resembling a budget process is going on.

The release of President Barack Obama's fiscal 2015 budget – albeit a month late and piecemeal --  continues a developing period of relative stability for a budget and appropriations process that has generally been dysfunctional for the better part of a decade, contends Trey Hodgkins, senior vice president, public sector at the Information Technology Alliance for Public Sector.

"This is a steady state in the face of the past 10 years of budget disputes, continuing resolutions and government shutdowns. There are no more three-week funding cycles" for federal IT projects," Hodgkins said.

Overall, Hodgkins sees Obama's budget as favorable to the federal IT environment, and says it could set the stage for further advances in implementation and procurement. He noted there were common threads running through the 1,200 page blueprint aimed at "doubling down" on cloud computing capabilities and data center consolidation.

"There's nothing there that's divergent from the path the federal government is taking to become an information-based entity," he said, better prepared for the 21st century.

Federal CIO Steve VanRoekel said in a March 4 conference call that the $1.014 trillion discretionary funding request includes slightly more than $79 billion in federal IT spending, down from the $81.4 billion enacted for 2014. The president requested $35.4 billion on the defense side, down from $37.6 billion last fiscal year. Civilian IT spending would tick up to $43.7 billion. VanRoekel attributed the slight dip in military IT to savings from initiatives such as data center consolidation.

According to Hodgkins, the changes can be seen as a more realistic look at IT acquisition in which HealthCare.gov is something of a guide. The troubled release of the website in 2014, he said, illustrated that government needed to better understand project management, focus on a more educated workforce and pay more attention to how competition can drive technological innovation.

Proposals for increased training for senior and mid-level managers included in the budget are key in sustaining a knowledgeable federal acquisition workforce, according to Hodgkins, but "there is, however, no silver bullet." The issues involved in complex acquisition processes "can't be unwound easily. I applaud the willingness to be thoughtful."

This article can also be found on FCW's website.