Statements and Speeches
"Off-line and Off-Budget: The Dismal State of Information Technology Planning in the Federal Government"
Opening Statement: Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security
Jul 31 2008
The Subcommittee will come to order.
My thanks to our guests and witnesses for being here today, the third hearing this Subcommittee has held on the issue of poorly planned and poorly performing IT investments. This hearing will focus – once again – on the ability of the Office of Management and Budget to oversee and provide Congress visibility into the $71 billion that agencies will spend on information technology. Up until March, Congress had an extremely limited ability to understand why OMB considered an IT investment to be “poorly planned.” I must commend OMB, and in particular Ms. Evans, for finally releasing this data. Although this is a good start, more complete and accurate information needs to be shared. I firmly believe that in order to hold agencies accountable for their investments, Congress and OMB need to work together as partners – the American taxpayers demand it.
Information technology investments, if planned and implemented properly, can increase productivity, improve efficiency; and reduce an agency’s costs. However, some of these projects can be extremely difficult to manage and mistakes may be made along the way. I experienced this firsthand when I was Governor of Delaware. Sometimes, we bit off more than we could chew and the project would quickly spiral out of control. When this happened, sometimes we came to the conclusion that the best course of action was to just pull the plug. It was a tough decision, but it was the right thing to do in some cases.
Unfortunately, many agencies in the federal government are allowed to spend billions of taxpayer dollars on investments that are duplicative, lack clear goals, and are managed by unqualified individuals. In fact, according to recently released GAO data, $25 billion in IT investments are poorly planned, poorly performing, or both. Even worse, some of these projects have been delayed up to a decade and are costing us billions more than was originally expected. This is simply unacceptable. And it makes me wonder whether it’s time for Congress to pull the plug on some of these failed investments.
But we don’t just want better information. Our bill also helps OMB take a crucial step aimed at preventing IT investments from drifting towards failure. Recognizing that agencies may not have the skills necessary to manage complex IT investments and may have trouble recruiting qualified managers, our bill would set up a team of experts from inside and outside of government that agencies may use as a resource. This team – which my staff and I have taken to calling a kind of “IT Strike Force” – would have the skills and background necessary to make sure that agencies are focusing on the right things, making the right decisions, and spending the money we entrust to them wisely.
Thank you again to our witnesses for joining us today, and I look forward to hearing the discussion. The American taxpayer demands we be good stewards of their money, and I know everyone here in this room wants to see that a reality.
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