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Budget to be released Feb. 13

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The Office of Management and Budget just confirmed to Federal Times that the fiscal 2013 budget will be released Feb. 13.

An administration official said Feb. 13 was chosen “based on the need to finalize decisions and technical details of the document.”

The budget usually comes out the first Monday in February, which would be Feb. 6. Until today, reporters had been hearing rumors that the White House would stick to that traditional schedule.

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OMB to announce cuts for IT projects

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The Office of Management and Budget says hundreds of millions of dollars in budget reductions are expected to come from the restructuring or cancelation of selected financial system modernization projects.

OMB acting director Jeffrey Zients and controller Danny Werfel will announce today the fate of financial system modernization projects that were halted for review last month.  

In August, a total of 26 IT projects were identified as “high risk” and subjected to a thorough review before moving forward. Improvement plans are being developed, and they should include details of projects risks, new contractor performance metrics and more rigorous project governance.

Later this fall, those improvement plans will be reviewed by OMB in so-called “TechStat” review sessions as part of the 2012 budget process. Federal chief information officer Vivek Kundra said that even though these projects will be revised and proceed, they still could be cancelled in the future if they run off track.

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Zeints to helm OMB until Lew confirmed

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Zeints

Zeints

Politico is reporting that federal chief performance officer Jeffrey Zeints will be the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget until Peter Orszag’s replacement, Jack Lew, is confirmed by the Senate.

Rob Nabors, a former Orszag deputy who has been serving as senior adviser to President Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, will return to OMB as acting deputy directo, Politico reports.

When Lew is able to take over, he’ll face a tough road trying to advance the administration’s budget-cutting efforts, as my colleague Steve Losey reported recently.


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Dashboards, dashboards, dashboards!

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The Obama administration has yet another dashboard on the way.

Dan Gordon, head of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, told Federal Times in a statement that the administration will launch a dashboard to track agencies’ progress on acquisition reform later this summer.

The administration has had its much-ballyhooed IT dashboard up and running for about a year, and is working on another dashboard to track agencies’ progress toward “high priority performance goals.” Dave McClure at GSA is also working on something called a “citizen dashboard” that we probably won’t see until sometime next year. Some agencies, apparently realizing that the administration thinks dashboards are the wave of the future, have set up internal dashboard systems to track certain areas like IT spending, cyber security, or overall agency progress toward strategic goals.

OMB’s dashboards typically provide public information on how well federal agencies are performing in certain areas, so I assume the acquisition dashboard will rate agencies’ progress toward identifying contracting savings in an effort to hold them accountable for progress toward the president’s goal.

Gordon said in his statement to Federal Times:

“This is just one step to ensure agencies remain vigilant in their efforts to maintain fiscal discipline and achieve the best value for our taxpayers.  We will be meeting with agencies periodically to review their progress against their savings plans and risk reduction goals – helping those who are achieving success to sustain and build on those results and working closely with those who are having difficulties to identify actions that can be taken to improve results.”

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Federal contracting: geyser or tsunami?

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Old FaithfulThe water metaphors were flowing at yesterday’s Senate Budget Committee hearing on federal contracting.

In his opening statement, Office of Federal Procurement Policy administrator Dan Gordon mentioned the massive growth in government contracting over the last decade. He said that acquisition workers “couldn’t cope with this tsunami of buying that was taking place.”

Not to be outdone, Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse later said that “more than half a trillion dollars a year and climbing is clearly a geyser of taxpayer funds that needs to be carefully watched.”

Either way, it sounds like taxpayers are taking a bath.

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Obama taps Jacob Lew to head OMB

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President Obama has just selected Jacob Lew to replace Peter Orszag as Director of the Office of Management and Budget. More to come.

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DHS gets federal cybersecurity portfolio

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The Office of Management and Budget has officially tabbed the Homeland Security Department to oversee cybersecurity in the executive branch, as OMB indicated would be the case in April.

A memo this week from OMB Director Peter Orszag and federal cybersecurity coordinator Howard Schmidt gives DHS responsibility for:

• overseeing the government-wide and agency-specific implementation of and reporting on cybersecurity policies and guidance;
• overseeing and assisting government-wide and agency-specific efforts to provide adequate, risk-based and cost-effective cybersecurity;
• overseeing the agencies’ compliance with FISMA and developing analyses for OMB to assist in the development of the FISMA annual report;
• overseeing the agencies’ cybersecurity operations and incident response and providing appropriate assistance; and
• annually reviewing the agencies’ cybersecurity programs.

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More on OMB’s performance reviews

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Shelley Metzenbaum, OMB’s associate director for performance and personnel management, issued a memo on performance management today that didn’t seem to say much beyond previously announced plans to meet with agencies on their high-priority goals and set up a website to track agencies’ performance.

One interesting line, though, was this one: “Agencies should consider this year a transition year during which OMB and the [Performance Improvement Council] will move to a more dynamic performance planning, management, improvement, and reporting framework that is useful, streamlined and coherent.”

This seems to indicate that OMB is going to establish some kind of performance-management system or checklist that agencies use, even though Metzenbaum has said before that OMB didn’t want to do that. Or perhaps this just refers to OMB’s performance website?

I’m checking this out with OMB, but at first blush this memo doesn’t appear to be a change in direction from OMB’s vision of using outcome-based, data-driven analysis and holding agencies accountable for progress toward their high-priority goals. We’ll be watching to see how agencies live up to these expectations when they’re explaining to OMB this summer why they want to cut Program X from their fiscal 2012 budget, but not Project Y.

UPDATE 6/29/10:

Here’s the response to my questions I received from OMB press secretary Jean Weinberg. Do with this information what you will.

1. The transition year refers to the period during which agencies are producing documents to meet the requirements of GPRA, which include the FY 2012 Performance Budget/Annual Performance Plan and the FY 2010 Annual Performance Report.

2. The new “framework” is expected to cover the full performance improvement process – not just plan and report production. The framework is expected to include key steps such as leaders setting priorities, analyzing results to identify performance variations and understand the reasons for them, holding regular data-driven reviews, and ensuring accountability and transparency of results. This new approach is exemplified by the High Priority Performance Goal effort, the launching pad for the Administration’s broader performance improvement and transparency efforts.”

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OMB to halt 30 financial systems projects

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The Office of Management and Budget is going to announce today that it’s halting all financial systems modernization projects across the government.

That means 30 projects worth $20 billion are now effectively on hold until OMB can come up with a way to improve the procurement process in this area.

The most well-known failure in this area is the Veterans Affairs Department’s CoreFLS project (since replaced by a new program called FLITE that hasn’t gone much better). The department has spent a total of about $300 million on this boondoggle over 10 years and has seen no tangible benefits.

Jeff Zeints, OMB’s deputy director for management, is going to take four months to develop guidance on how to improve the federal procurement process for information technology. This is a source of frequent complaints from IT and acquisition officials — the government process is just too slow to keep up with rapid advancements in IT.

OMB is having a conference call in about a half hour to discuss its strategy — we’ll have an update for you later this afternoon.

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They always come in threes…

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kumarFirst Peter Orszag. Then Gen. Stanley McChrystal. And CNN just reported that Kal Penn, better known as Kumar, has officially left the White House. It’s hard to tell which will be the most devastating loss to the administration.

Seriously, though, the Washington Post’s Al Kamen has a roundup of potential Orszag replacements here, including current Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry. But whoever ends up replacing Orszag will face the thankless task of reducing the nation’s deficit, as Slate’s Christopher Beam details here.

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