WASHINGTON – Senators on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) raised questions about possibly troubled information technology projects in the U.S. Treasury on Monday.
Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.) wrote to the Treasury’s chief information officer, Sanjeev “Sonny” Bhagowalia, asking why leaders of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) told Congress in 2014 that three IRS information technology projects were in trouble and another four faced risks, yet all of the projects were rated “green” – or untroubled – on the public “IT Dashboard” that’s meant to apprise the public about federal performance.
The IT Dashboard is meant to alert taxpayers of significant risks in agency IT projects that can potentially lead to costly delays or overblown budgets.
Senator Johnson said, “The federal government spends over $80 billion per year on information technology, and all too often, billions of that is wasted due to cost overruns, delays and failed projects. The Office of Management and Budget’s IT Dashboard website has the potential to be a valuable tool in identifying and mitigating risk before taxpayer dollars are wasted. Yet this tool is only useful if the information it provides is accurate and up to date. Often, it is not. Agencies and OMB must do a better job ensuring that Congress and taxpayers alike can track the progress of IT projects and understand where their hard-earned dollars are going. Last December, the committee-passed Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) was signed into law. FITARA included several provisions codifying and improving the IT Dashboard. This committee will remain focused on ensuring that agencies and OMB are complying with the law and providing timely and accurate assessments of their IT risk to the public.”
Senator Carper said, “When it comes to analyzing the billions of taxpayer dollars the federal government is spending on information technology, the ‘IT Dashboard’ is a window where there once was a wall. This tool holds great potential to help both Congress and the public better understand how taxpayer dollars are spent on the federal government’s major information technology projects. However, the IT Dashboard is at risk of not achieving its full potential if it lacks accurate information and transparent reporting of program risk. I look forward to gaining more clarity on this issue from the Department of Treasury. At the same time, I urge all agencies to continue to improve their process for reporting, tracking and measuring progress on this important initiative, and to move forward with implementation of the Federal IT Acquisition and Reform Act, which I worked with my colleagues to help enact last year.
The Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA), approved by the committee in the 113th Congress, was included in the FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). FITARA, now law, contains provisions to make IT investments more transparent to taxpayers by making the cost, schedule, and performance data for agencies’ IT investments publically available on the IT Dashboard. The law also requires the Office of Management and Budget to issue new guidance intended to improve the quality of the Dashboard, and required agency CIOs develop plans for improving Dashboard information that is not timely and reliable. Agency CIOs, in consultation with the Office of Management and budget, must report to Congress on root causes of high risks in major IT acquisitions and describe plans to address those risks.