Tightrope For Federal IT Budget - InformationWeek

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Tightrope For Federal IT Budget

The feds are in the same IT vise that state governments experienced last year.

ST. LOUIS, Mo.--Though the federal government's fiscal year is but a month old, budget planners are working on an unusually tricky fiscal 2004 IT budget. Overall spending might go up, but any increase probably will be the result of demands imposed by national security needs. "We're facing the same budget crunch you faced last year," Mark Forman, associate director for IT and E-government, told state CIOs meeting here Tuesday.

Many states have had to cut IT spending as revenue have diminished. Unlike the federal government, most states must balance their budgets.

The federal government plans to spend about $52 billion on IT in fiscal 2003, which began Oct. 1. That's about 15% more than it laid out in fiscal 2002, with most of the increase because of homeland-security needs. Those needs will only intensify in the coming year, and Forman doesn't rule out additional increases in IT spending in 2004. But the de facto federal CIO pledged that it wouldn't be caused by uncontrolled spending. "We'll need more-disciplined spending in fiscal 2004," he says.

One way to rein in spending is for agencies to share technologies. Forman cited a decision by Energy Department CIO Karen Evans to buy more enterprise licenses for electronic-signature technology than the department needs. The extra licenses will be shared with other agencies rather than have them create or procure their own E-signature apps, steps that almost certainly would cost more than buying added licenses. In fact, Forman says, the Office of Management and Budget won't authorize spending on redundant E-signature projects.

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