News Column

Udall Presses Administration Officials on Federal Information Technology Reforms

May 7, 2014



WASHINGTON, May 7 -- The office of Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., issued the following news release:

Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall chaired a hearing of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee on reforming federal information technology (IT) investments to prevent wasteful spending and improve government effectiveness. Citing testimony from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that over $12 billion of major federal IT projects are at risk or need management attention, Udall pressed officials from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the General Services Administration (GSA), and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to improve oversight and transparency efforts. Witnesses also discussed how Udall's bipartisan IT reform legislation would increase accountability and transparency for the more than $80 billion in annual spending on federal IT systems.

"At a time of tight budgets, we cannot afford to waste funds," Udall said. "We should not be paying more and getting less. Agencies need IT investments that are efficient and effective - that help them complete their missions. Agencies have identified savings from duplication and waste within their IT portfolios totaling over $2.5 billion in the next three years. GAO has identified additional savings by consolidating data centers. There are many opportunities to improve the way the federal government spends money on IT. We need to make the most of them."

Agencies across the federal government rely on IT systems for financial management, internal and external communication, and conveying information to the public. The federal government spends about $80 billion annually on information technology, but recent testimony by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) indicated at least 201 major federal IT investments totaling $12.4 billion are at risk or in need of management attention. The report also indicated that IT reforms, such as empowering federal Chief Information Officers (CIOs), consolidating federal data centers, and transitioning to cloud computing services, could save billions of dollars.

Udall has introduced a bipartisan bill that would require the first major overhaul of the government information technology (IT) procurement process in over a decade. Udall's Federal Information Technology Savings, Accountability, and Transparency Act would help to modernize the government's computer and technology systems, which lag far behind those of the private sector. The bill seeks to implement many of the GAO's recommendations to eliminate wasteful spending, ensure accountability and improve transparency in federal information technology acquisition and management.

VIDEO is available HERE (http://youtu.be/kDTgpR6zBCI).

Udall's opening remarks as prepared for delivery are below:

Good afternoon. I am pleased to convene this hearing of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government on the request for and oversight of Federal Information Technology Investments.

First, I want to welcome my Ranking Member, Senator Mike Johanns, and our other colleagues who have joined me on the dais today, and others who may arrive during the course of these proceedings.

With us today are four distinguished witnesses: the Federal Chief Information Officer, Steven Van Roekel; the Administrator of the General Services Administration, Dan Tangherlini; the Director of the Office of Personnel Management, Katherine Archuleta; and the Director of Information Technology Management Issues at the Government Accountability Office, David Powner. Thank you for your service. I look forward to hearing your testimony.

With the agencies here today that all play a government-wide role, I want to mention that this week is Public Service Recognition Week. I would like to take this opportunity to salute our public servants and the valuable work they do.

Today's hearing is important because updating our information technology systems is crucial. Our government should be using cutting-edge, 21st century technology. Too often, it isn't, and that affects all of us.

Across the Federal Government, agencies rely on information technology, including financial management systems to track payments and manage funds, handheld devices and email systems to communicate with each other, Internet websites to communicate with the public and share information on what the government is doing.

The technology is moving forward, but the Federal Government is falling behind. Agencies operate on old systems, often with multiple programs that cannot speak to each other, and with outdated obsolete technologies.

We also need to make sure that money is well spent. The Federal Government spends $80 billion dollars on IT investments every year to operate outmoded systems agencies currently rely on and develop new ones - $80 billion dollars a year, and we know there is waste and duplication.

We need to get the most out of every dollar, and too often, we don't. The Federal Government's "IT Dashboard" identifies 201 major federal IT investments, totaling more than $12 billion dollars, with significant concerns that need management attention. Let me repeat that - 201 federal IT investments. $12 billion dollars in question marks. That is not acceptable to any of us.

There are numerous examples of expensive multi-year projects over budget and delayed, of investments that ultimately fail, wasting taxpayer money and crippling the government's ability to do its job.

At a time of tight budgets, we cannot afford to waste funds. We should not be paying more and getting less. Agencies need IT investments that are efficient and effective - that help them complete their missions. Agencies have identified savings from duplication and waste within their IT portfolios totaling over $2.5 billion dollars in the next three years. GAO has identified additional savings by consolidating data centers. There are many opportunities to improve the way the Federal Government spends money on IT. We need to make the most of them.

At the same time, we need well-trained experts to do the work for these investments to succeed. There are some existing and new tools being used by federal agencies, but there may be more that can be done to train, recruit, and retain qualified IT specialists.

I want to make sure that citizens can depend on the web to interact with their government. IT is not a luxury - it is essential for individuals, and for businesses. Small companies from places like Albuquerque and Las Cruces should be able to go online and find what federal business opportunities exist, and be able to submit bids to compete for those opportunities. American taxpayers should be confident that their money is being spent wisely and efficiently.

I look forward to hearing testimony today on how the FY 15 Budget will advance oversight of IT investments, and what more could be done.

I am hopeful that this hearing will help to guide the Subcommittee's efforts as we evaluate the President's budget request and craft our appropriations bill.

I am also pleased to be working with my Subcommittee colleagues, Ranking Member Johanns and Senator Moran on bipartisan legislation to empower federal agency Chief Information Officers to drive more effective IT investments with more flexibility, transparency and accountability.

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Source: Targeted News Service