Government wants to increase IT spending 1.3% in proposed budget

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Credit: Reuters

U.S. says agile development is used in half of IT projects

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President Barack Obama's administration has proposed a 1.3% increase in IT spending next fiscal year, raising the government's total IT budget to $89.9 billion. The overall proposed federal budget is $4.1 trillion.

This budget includes a 35% increase in cybersecurity spending, to $19 billion, and the appointment of the first chief information security officer.

White House officials used the budget unveiling Tuesday to make a point about the Obama administration's IT direction.

Tony Scott, a former top executive at VMware until taking the White House CIO post in last February, said from 2001, to 2009 -- during the administration of former President George W. Bush -- the annual growth in IT spending was about 7.1%. That rate has been slowed to 1.8% annually, he said.

IT hardware spending has declined more than 25% from 2010 levels, said Scott, in a telephone press briefing with reporters.

Scott attributed the relatively low increases in spending to a shift in how the government runs IT. For one thing, cloud computing now accounts for about 8.2% of the IT budget, said Scott.

Also credited with improving federal IT was agile -- an incremental, fast-paced style of development now used in half of the new software projects, compared to 35% of IT projects in 2012.

Agile doesn't guarantee success. The development methodology was used in the creation of the troubled Healthcare.gov portal, but the agency in charge had little experience with it.

This is the last budget from the Obama administration; it's for the new fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

Computer Economics, a private research firm, is forecasting 1% growth in IT budgets at the median in public and non-profit firms this year. Large organizations, worried about macro-economic trends, will see smaller increases, and small to mid-sized firms will be spending more, said John Longwell, vice president of research.

"The federal government is about on target with our forecast," said Longwell.

The increase in security spending follows some very large breaches, including one at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in June. As many as 18 million records have been compromised.

The budget delivered by the administration goes to a Congress that might be amenable to some of the IT spending recommendations.

Ari Schwartz, a former White House senior director for cybersecurity who is now managing director of cybersecurity at Venable, a law firm, said the administration's cybersecurity budget requests, in particular, have done very well with Congress.

The president "has been getting what he has asked for," when it comes to cybersecurity, said Schwartz.

Despite the limited time remaining in the Obama administration, and its perpetual frictions with the GOP-controlled Congress, the White House's IT initiatives aren't dead, said Ray Bjorklund, president of Birchgove Consulting, a federal IT advisory firm.

"Congressional grandstanding will eventually give way to the consideration of the appropriations that must be enacted for the continuation of government -- IT is a big component of that," said Bjorklund.

When the White House issued the federal cloud computing strategy in 2011, it claimed that $20 billion of the then-$80 billion in IT spending could move to the cloud -- that would be 25%, said Bjorklund. “The 25% number was never realistic, especially for the then near-term situation,” he said.

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