WASHINGTON – Senator Susan Collins, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, welcomed the release today of the latest iteration of the federal government’s “IT Dashboard,” an online tool designed to give Americans access to information about federal technology spending, from data on project status to evaluation reports. The federal government has wasted hundreds of millions of dollars on poorly planned and poorly managed IT programs.
For example, the Census Bureau’s mismanagement led to a costly malfunction of handheld data collection devices used by Census workers. The data collection devices did not perform as promised, resulting in an additional $1 billion to revert the 2010 Census follow-up to a paper-based system.
In an October 2009 report, the GAO identified 11 mismanaged IT investments made by federal agencies that will likely cost taxpayers $3 billion more than the original price tag. These include the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s James Webb Space Telescope and the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Information System Modernization, which will collectively overrun their original budgets by $798.7 million.
The “IT Dashboard” provides transparency into federal IT programs to help prevent this type of waste. The upgraded “IT Dashboard,” announced by the Office of Budget and Management, contains several of the suggestions that Senator Collins offered in a March 2010 letter to the agency. In her letter, she offered recommendations for improving the information contained in the Web site to allow additional transparency. In this new and latest version, agency officials said many of Senator Collins’ recommendations were incorporated.
Senator Collins’ statement follows:
“Inviting the public into the oversight process is a critical way to hold government accountable for results and progress. I am pleased that the original ‘IT Dashboard,’ rolled out in June 2009, has been enhanced, allowing for better oversight for taxpayers and government officials. The information provided by this new Web site will contain specific details about government IT spending. To improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the federal government, we must improve the procurement, management and oversight of these federal IT projects.
"The decision late last month by the Office of Management and Budget to reform how those ‘high-risk’ investments are managed represents real improvement over the current system, particularly for costly and error-prone investments in financial management systems. These OMB reforms are a step in the right direction toward a strong accountability system that protects taxpayer dollars.
“We have invested tens of billions of dollars in the federal government’s IT infrastructure, and, given the digital age that we are living in, such investments will only increase in the future.
"Thus, we must be even more vigilant in requiring that IT projects and properly planned and that clear requirements are established at the beginning of the program. I applaud OMB’s actions to require more effective definition of program requirements and overall better IT program management by halting additional spending on 20 financial management IT projects and reviewing some 10 others, which total more than $17 billion.
“The House of Representatives should act quickly to further improve federal IT procurement by passing the bipartisan, Information Technology Investment Oversight Enhancement and Waste Prevention Act of 2009 that I co-authored with Senator Tom Carper. The additional reforms in that legislation would help ensure that taxpayer dollars are invested in projects with a clear set of requirements and only after a careful examination of cost and alternatives.
"When programs experience severe problems, the legislation would also prevent future investment without careful additional planning. These reforms, along with the OMB guidance issued last month and the new IT Dashboard, would help protect taxpayer dollars in these risky, high-tech investments.”