Translating the Trump Budget: More Money for Modernization – and DATA Act Support


EDIT (07/20/17): An earlier version of this blog mistakenly reported that the OMB ITOR fund increased in the budget request by reporting estimated Budgetary Resources and not the requested Budget Authority. The correction has been made.

 

Last week the White House released President Trump’s first proposed budget. Like all Presidential budget proposals, it is written in wonkese, rather than English.

We read it, and we figured out what it means for federal technology and the implementation of the DATA Act, so you don’t have to.

The Hot Takes:

  • President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget request requests $95,688,000,000 for IT spending. Of that money, $53,168,000,000 is for 4,087 civilian-agency IT projects. The rest is military.
  • The budget recognizes that the DATA Act is an important part of the IT management picture. By standardizing spending data, the DATA Act makes managing IT spending easier.
  • The Office of the Federal Chief Information Officer and the U.S. Digital Service sees a decline in total funding authority. The budget seeks $25 million for the Information Technology Oversight Reform (ITOR) fund, which supports those White House offices – a $5 million decrease.
  • The Trump Administration wants to keep the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s funding at $6 million – the same as last year.
  • The budget supports the GSA’s Technology Transformation Service with a $48 million request and the GSA’s Digital Services work with $6 million. GSA’s 18F technology development team gets a bigger share of the Acquisition Services Fund.
  • And the Trump Administration wants $228 million in new funding for a Technology Modernization Fund at GSA – pending the passage of the MGT Act in Congress.

The Fine Print:

Last week President Trump’s White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued its detailed Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 proposed federal budget (for all the documents, see this White House webpage). This is our first comprehensive document detailing how the new Administration will prioritize IT modernization, digital services, and open data work that Data Coalition and our members and partners champion.

To get a (relatively) quick understanding of how the Trump Administration views its proposal, readers can start with the Analytical Perspectives, a document that summarizes cross-cutting themes, such as Economic Assumptions, Performance Management, and Special Topics like Information Technology (IT) and R&D.

For our issues, we focused on Chapter 16: Information Technology. The Modernizing Government Technology section of this chapter explicitly supports building out citizen-facing services and recruiting talent for groups like the U.S. Digital Services (USDS). It also emphasizes a renewed commitment to “Buying as a Business” initiatives, like GSA’s Category Management and Shared Services.

However, it is the Improving Data Analytics and IT Portfolio Management section that really caught our eye. Here we see one of the first Presidential commitments to utilize the new federal spending data standards established by the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) (PL 101-113).

In this section, which is directed at the management work of OMB’s Office of E-Government (also known as the Office of the Federal CIO), the Administration states simply that “decision-making requires useful data,” and continues:

Currently, many reporting requirements are viewed as mere compliance exercises that are not consistently used to improve IT management and oversight…. To better utilize Federal IT spending data, the Federal Government must integrate data collection efforts, standardize reporting data, and find new opportunities to simplify, automate, and consolidate reporting. Such efforts can build on existing Federal initiatives such as the Digital Accountability and Transparency (DATA) Act of 2014 (Public Law 113–101), which improves governmentwide financial reporting and data standards. Moreover, the Federal adoption of industry standards for tracking IT spending will improve the consistency, granularity, and quality of Federal IT spending information and thus drive more meaningful analysis, benchmarking, and planning…. Improving data quality and usability is the first step towards a more data-driven, responsive, and accountable Government. (see page 195)

In other words, the White House recognizes that we need standardized data to manage the government, including the government’s IT spending – and the DATA Act is a first step toward standardized data.

How will the government use the DATA Act’s standardized data in performance and portfolio management activities, like IT governance in OMB? We’ll be watching with great interest.

We’re thrilled to see the DATA Act’s benefits moving beyond simple financial management. As a successful open data law, it should serve as a stable and accurate resource on which IT management, performance management, and oversight activities can rely.

IT Management, Open Data, and Digital Services: More Money for Key White House Offices

Looking now at actual funding items, we see that the proposed budget seeks to slightly grow government-wide IT spending to $95,688,000,000 (over $94,094,000,000 in FY 2017), with $42,521,000,000 designated for the Defense Department and $53,168,000,000 for 4,087 stated non-defense IT projects (see Table 16-1 on page 191, Chapter 16, Information Technology). The details of these projects are spread across each agencies’ funding requests, which can found in the budget Appendix.

What about the White House offices that manage technology and related policy? These offices are covered in the Administration’s funding request for the Executive Office of the President. Here we look at the Information Technology Oversight and Reform (ITOR) fund, which supports both the operations of the Office of E-Government (Office of the Federal CIO), and the U.S. Digital Service (USDS), both within OMB.

The Administration is seeking to decrease the ITOR fund from $30 million in FY17 to $25 million in FY18.

The ITOR fund is split between the Office of E-Government (listed as “Oversight, Cybersecurity and Program Management”) and the US Digital Service (USDS).  These funds are designated for oversight over agency IT investments to “reduce waste and duplication”, establish “data-driven, risk-based” cybersecurity policy setting”, further implementation of the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA), and “expand the use of data and analytics to support agency IT portfolio management.” And for USDS the budget includes the direction to “increase the effectiveness of Federal IT investments by improving the digital experiences that individuals and businesses have when interacting with the Government” (see page 1056, EOP Appendix).

It is also noteworthy that the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), home to the US Chief Technology Officer and the Chief Data Officer’s Data Science Working Group, sees its operational funding preserved at the same level as last year, with a request for $6 million (see page 1053, EOP Appendix).  

Modernization at GSA

Over at the General Services Administration (GSA), home to the 18F technologists and the data.gov initiatives, open data and digital government work is largely supported by the Federal Citizen Services Fund. According to the President’s budget, this fund provides the Technology Transformation Service (TTS) with $48 million in operational funds (over $49 million in FY17) and $6 million (over $7 million in FY17) is allocated for administration-wide Digital Services work. The budget says, “Electronic Government (E-Gov) initiatives will continue to drive innovation in Government operations, using IT to improve the transparency, efficiency and effectiveness of Federal operations, and increase citizen participation in Government” (see page 1071, GSA Appendix).

However, 18F also receives reimbursable support from GSA’s Acquisition Services Fund, and here we see a big increase in approved support with a $21 million request (over $13 million in FY17) (see page 1063, GSA Appendix).

Lastly, and of major interest to anyone tracking the progress of the Rep. Will Hurd (TX-23-R) and Sen. Jerry Moran (KS-R) Modernizing Government Technology Act (MGT Act) (HR 2227; S 990) in Congress, the President’s budget seeks $280 million for a new Technology Modernization Fund. The proposed fund would be housed at GSA and administered by an inter-agency review board. The Federal CIO (Director of the Office of E-Government) would serve as the chair, and the board would include “experts in IT acquisition, cybersecurity, and agile development”, who will “ensure prioritization of projects with the greatest government-wide impact and probability of success” in accordance with the potential law’s requirements. The Administration states that the fund “serves as a long-term, self-sustaining mechanism for Federal agencies to regularly refresh outdated networks and systems with the newest technologies and security capabilities” (see page 1065, GSA Appendix).

Simply put, this proposed budget strongly supports IT modernization, digital services, and open data projects. Now it is up to Congress to decide how much of the Administration’s proposal to accept, as it crafts its FY18 appropriations bills over the Summer.

The Data Coalition will be watching and offering assistance as Congress weighs these investment decisions.