Second IT program canceled amid review

By Marjorie Censer
Capital Business Staff Writer
Friday, December 10, 2010

The Office of Management and Budget has canceled a Department of Homeland Security information technology program, making it the second termination in a broad review of troubled federal IT projects.

The OMB said Wednesday that it had finished reviewing 16 programs singled out as problematic for exceeding their budgets, falling behind schedule or being at risk for those issues. As a result, the administration is scaling back eight programs and accelerating the most useful parts of seven others.

The Obama administration is undertaking significant changes to its IT infrastructure and guidelines. The OMB reviewed a separate group of 20 problematic financial management IT systems earlier this year and has unveiled a slate of policy changes, including a plan to consolidate the government's data centers.

The canceled Homeland Security program was a claims-processing system for flood insurance on which the agency had already spent $40 million over seven years, said Vivek Kundra, federal chief information officer.

The system didn't work and lacked both a dedicated program manager and clear evaluation standards, according to Kundra.

In another instance, the Agriculture Department had already invested $94 million and four years in developing a supply-chain-management system used to manage food distribution - but had nothing to show for it, according to Kundra.

After the review, the program was accelerated so that 7,000 users were given online access to the system last month.

Jeffrey Zients, federal chief performance officer, said the reviews resulted in a $1.3 billion reduction in the cost of the projects over their lifespans and cut in half the average time to deliver the programs.

"We've proven that we can improve IT performance on a project-by-project basis," Zients said.

The OMB has now reviewed all but eight of 26 federal IT projects identified as the most troubled. The agency announced in October that it had finished assessing two projects - including a Justice Department case-management system that was canceled.

The remaining programs will be reviewed by the time the 2012 budget is introduced in February, according to Zients.

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