Budget woes force feds to adopt Agile methodology

Unprecedented federal budget problems are creating a new reality for the software development operations of government IT units.

The days of the big, lumbering, multiyear government IT projects are likely coming to an end as more and more federal IT managers turn to Agile development methodologies to speed up software projects so they can quickly demonstrate the value of new systems.

Government agencies, which spend about $80 billion a year on IT, have regularly faced possible shutdowns and budget cuts in recent years. The latest threat is the so-called sequester, a package of automatic spending cuts that will go into effect next month unless Congress can come up with a long-term plan to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion.

On top of that, agencies have been operating on short-term IT budgets since 2010 because lawmakers haven't passed an annual budget.

"This lack of budgetary stability makes it very hard to plan and, I think, extremely hard to plan well," Robert Hale, comptroller and chief financial officer at the U.S. Department of Defense, said last month at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

The uncertainty has forced many government IT managers to seek new ways to develop software, said Kris van Riper, managing director of consulting firm CEB.

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