OMB Director Defends Cuts to IT Oversight Budget

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In one of many budget hearings taking place on the Hill this week, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government heard from Russell T. Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), regarding the agency’s FY2020 budget request. While the bulk of the hearing didn’t address IT issues, Vought did touch on IT spending, IT modernization, and the President’s Management Agenda (PMA).

In the White House’s FY2020 budget proposal, OMB was allotted $116 million in funding, an 11 percent cut from OMB’s FY2019 enacted level. This cut to the budget didn’t make Subcommittee Chairman Mike Quigley, D-Ill., happy.

“This budget deeply slashes programs that support the most vulnerable among us–the sick, the elderly, the poor–while doubling-down on discredited trickle-down economic policies that widen the inequalities in our society,” he said during the hearing.

Vought, who was celebrating his birthday today, had a different take on the budget cuts.

“This reduction demonstrates OMB’s own commitment to fiscal discipline and efficiency as we enforce these same principles across the executive branch,” he testified. “This request reflects a realignment of OMB’s responsibilities, while still making sure the agency has the staff and resources necessary to carry out its mission.”

Ranking Member Tom Graves, R-Ga., sided more with Vought, calling his budget proposal “courageous.”

In addition to justifying the proposed budget cut, Vought also addressed OMB’s request for IT funding, and its modernization priorities.

“OMB is also requesting $15 million for the Information Technology Oversight and Reform (ITOR) fund,” he explained. “The staffing level for ITOR in FY2020 is 69 FTE [full time employees]. This is a $13.5 million decrease below the FY 2019 enacted appropriation of $28.5 million.”

He further explained that in order “ensure that its important work continues, ITOR anticipates collecting $3 million in reimbursable funding from United States Digital Service (USDS) agency teams for personnel that USDS details to those agencies.”

He testified that the proposed funding “will allow OMB to continue to modernize and improve government operations and service delivery, improve cybersecurity, and continue to improve analytics and oversight aimed to achieve cost efficiencies in agencies’ use of IT.”

During the hearing, Vought added a caveat to OMB’s budget request regarding the IT Dashboard (not to be confused with MeriTalk’s FITARA dashboard). He said, “It must be noted that our request assumes that funding for the maintenance of the IT dashboard is accounted for in GSA’s [General Services Administration] Office of Government-wide Policy.”

Vaught also touted OMB’s work on implementing the President’s Management Agenda, which recently celebrated its first birthday. The PMA includes quite a few IT components, including the ongoing effort to establish the GEAR Center, the upcoming Federal Data Strategy, the Centers of Excellence, and the launch of the Federal Cyber Reskilling Academy. Vaught said the PMA “serves as a cornerstone for productive, bipartisan dialogue on structurally realigning the Federal Government to more effectively operate in the 21st Century.”

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