Justice, Interior IT programs are first casualties of federal review

By Marjorie Censer
Monday, September 20, 2010; 9

The Obama administration's chief information officer is set to announce Monday (Sept. 20) the cancellation of a Justice Department information technology program and the restructuring of an Interior Department program as the first casualties in a sweeping review of 26 troublesome federal IT projects.

Vivek Kundra said he will call for remaking the way the government handles IT projects to improve accountability and transparency in an address to the Federal CIO Council on Monday morning.

Kundra also plans to announce the cancellation of the Justice Department's Litigation Case Management System and the significant restructuring of the Interior Department's Incident Management Analysis and Reporting System, both assessed as part of the Office of Management and Budget's review of the most troubled IT projects.

The Justice Department program, intended to provide a unified system for tracking cases, was originally estimated to cost $128 million, but the price tag has soared to $257 million, Kundra said. The government has already spent $64 million, according to OMB.

"It makes no sense to put more money into this," he said.

Instead, the Justice Department will modernize the system at the level of individual offices, which will still result in an interoperable system, Kundra said.

In a statement, the department said the "smaller, more targeted efforts" will save more than $100 million over the next several years while still improving the case management system.

According to the IT Dashboard, a government Web site that compiles data on federal agencies' IT programs, Falls Church-based CSC is the main contractor for the program, having already received $60.5 million in contracts. The company said in a statement that it has no current work on the program but is "ready to support" the Justice Department through any kind of contract vehicle.

Most of the 26 programs now under review will likely be significantly reorganized rather than canceled, as in the case of the Interior Department's Incident Management Analysis and Reporting System, Kundra said.

The program -- meant to provide a department-wide system for collecting, analyzing and reporting law enforcement and security information -- was four years behind schedule and far too complex, he said.

Now, the program will be broken into pieces to meet a final goal of serving 6,000 users. By November, the government hopes the system will be functional for 500 law enforcement officers and agents. It will then incrementally add users -- with reviews every six months -- until it is deployed to all 6,000 by December 2012.

Bernard Mazer, the Interior Department's CIO, said in a statement that the program adjustment will mean officers in the field will get access to the system more quickly.

The IT Dashboard does not identify the program's contractor, and Mazer said the Interior Department is using an integrated project team and a commercial software package.

OMB's review of the other 24 programs continues, Kundra said, and is slated to be completed by the introduction of the 2012 budget in February.

More broadly, Kundra is also preparing to introduce in late October a set of changes meant to address structural problems with federal IT projects. He said he has already spent at least two hours with procurement, budget and IT officials at every major department soliciting feedback for the effort.

"To reform federal IT, we need a new philosophy, rooted in the principles of transparency and open government," Kundra said in the written remarks he is set to deliver Monday. "We must create a culture of accountability with a focus on execution."

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