How U.S. Government Spends $200M Daily On IT - InformationWeek

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Software // Information Management
Commentary
7/1/2009
07:43 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
Commentary
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How U.S. Government Spends $200M Daily On IT

Federal CIO Vivek Kundra has shown outstanding leadership in creating easy-to-use websites that let taxpayers see how their money is being spent (or wasted) by the federal government's vast array of IT projects. But after looking at outlays for $38.6 billion in "major investments, I almost - but not quite - wished Kundra had kept some of these ugly and depressing details out of sight and therefore mercifully out of mind.

Federal CIO Vivek Kundra has shown outstanding leadership in creating easy-to-use websites that let taxpayers see how their money is being spent (or wasted) by the federal government's vast array of IT projects. But after looking at outlays for $38.6 billion in "major investments, I almost - but not quite - wished Kundra had kept some of these ugly and depressing details out of sight and therefore mercifully out of mind.It's hard to determine just where to start with the figures that have come to online light via Kundra's new initiatives, which my colleague Tom Claburn wrote about earlier today. How about largest average expenditure per IT project by cabinet department or agency? Let's start with the biggest spenders by average IT project expenditure, excluding for now the Defense Dept., Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs due to their truly mission-critical statuses.

As you peruse this list, please bear in mind that these massive numbers shown within the "Performance Dashboard" section of USAspending.gov do not represent the total budgets for these organizations; heck, they don't even represent the total IT budgets for those organizations. Rather, these figures cover only "major IT investments" from each entity.

--Justice Dept: $125 million average expense per IT project, with 16 such projects in the pipeline --Social Security Admin.: $69.2 million average expense per IT project, with 14 such IT projects in the pipeline --State Dept.: $64.7 million average expense per IT project, with 17 such IT projects in the pipeline --Energy Dept.: $59.3 million average expense per IT project, with 27 such IT projects in the pipeline --NASA: $56.6 million average expense per IT project, with 27 such IT projects in the pipeline --Smithsonian Institution: $54.9 million average expense per IT project, with 11 such projects in the pipeline --Transportation Dept.: $50 million average expense per IT project, with 48 such projects in the pipeline

Now, call me silly, but how many of you CIOs out there are overseeing even one IT project with a price tag of $50 million? I imagine there are a few of you - not many, but a few. How many are running, say, four projects at $50 million each? And how many can imagine running 48 IT projects at $50 million each?? Yet that's exactly what's going on with the junior partner in the group above, with Transportation shelling out $2.4 billion this year alone for IT projects.

So which suppliers are taking in a lot of that money, as well as even bigger amounts from Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs? The USAspending.gov website lists these five contractors as the top beneficiaries of this almost-inconceivable IT bloat for FY 2009, but it also says these numbers are just YTD -- so they will likely get bigger:

1) Lockheed Martin Corp.: $20,362,164,557 2) The Boeing Company: $14,730,265,990 3) Northrop Grumman Corporation: $8,672,131,373 4) General Dynamics Corporation: $7,794,041,496 5) Raytheon Company: $5,951,997,077

Here's one more look inside the insatiable IT beast that requires $200 million worth of feed every day: "Top 5 Assistance Recipients FY 2009 YTD." I'd love to tell you more about what that means but I wasn't able to get any more detail from the USAspending.gov home page that featured this list. I hope Kundra's team will continue to add more detail and context so everyone can understand more fully where this money is going and why. Here's the list, reproduced exactly from that home page except that I've added the italics:

TOP 5 Assistance Recipients FY 2009 YTD

1 DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH CARE SERVICES $18,908,037,649 2 NEW YORK STATE DEPT OF HEALTH $18,335,672,042 3 TEXAS HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES COMMISSION $13,514,862,175 4 PENNSYLVANIA DEPT OF PUBLIC WELFARE $11,168,181,944 5 LOUISIANA DEPT OF HEALTH & HOSPITALS $5,031,984,907

So - maybe the first application of this new transparency driven by federal CIO Kundra will be for CIOs in the private sector to take this type of info and show their bosses what an incredibly wonderful job they're doing in comparison to the folks at the federal government. That sure sounds like a killer app to me.

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