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Budget Bullets: Information Technology

IT Reform Can Reduce the Deficit While Improving Government Performance

SOURCE: AP/Mohammad abu Ghosh

The U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, saved an estimated $20 million over a five-year period just by moving its email servers to the cloud.

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The federal government spends $80 billion a year on information technology—on everything from weather forecasting tools to Social Security check processing to patent examination. Smart IT can boost government performance but it’s also a source of massive waste, according to the Office of Management and Budget. We urgently need to invest in technology that will save money and make government programs work better. Doing so can save billions and is an important part of any deficit-reduction strategy.

We can save as much as $12 billion a year by consolidating government IT services to shared “cloud” systems

  • Cloud computing can shave 20 percent to 30 percent off government IT costs, according to the IBM Center for the Business of Government.
  • For example, the U.S. Agency for International Development saved an estimated $20 million over a five-year period just by moving its email servers to the cloud.
  • The Veterans Administration slashed by 40 percent the time it takes to process education grants for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans thanks to cloud computing.

We must continue to review, reform, or cancel all IT projects that are over budget or behind schedule

  • Every agency should conduct “TechStat” reviews to identify problems and billions in savings opportunities.
  • Recent reviews by the White House of 50 problematic IT projects have already saved $3 billion.
  • These ongoing reviews have reduced development cycles from two years to eight months.

We must automate procurement oversight to speed up projects and identify bad vendors

  • We must enhance, not shrink, websites like usaspending.gov that let the public and media investigate waste, fraud, and abuse that cost taxpayers billions.
  • For example, combining dozens of contractor databases will make it easier to disqualify rotten apples among the 625,000 companies vying for government contracts.
  • Attacks by conservative lawmakers on the federal “e-gov” fund threaten to derail important transparency initiatives like the IT Dashboard, which lets the public know exactly how tech dollars are spent.

Pratap Chatterjee is a Visiting Fellow at the Center for American Progress.

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This is part of a regular column: Budget Bullets

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