The White House Office of Management and Budget will dial back its public reporting on federal agencies’ information technology investments, according to the government’s response to an email inquiry. The move is a blow to government transparency because the data is valuable to a full public accounting of the government’s investments in IT and the performance of those investments, according to the government itself.
According to the General Services Administration, which operates the dashboard, OMB made a “data masking decision” to not release data on federal agencies’ fiscal 2020 investments in infrastructure, security, and management on ITDashboard.gov, a government website launched in 2009 as a repository for IT-related government budget data.
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), a member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee and chairman of its Government Operations Subcommittee, criticized the move. “For nearly 10 years OMB has enhanced the oversight, transparency and accountable of federal IT investments through the dashboard. To roll back that progress would be a move in the wrong direction and a mistake,” he said in a statement.
Currently, only about $36 billion of the Trump administration’s $88 billion fiscal 2020 unclassified IT budget request is accounted for on the site. In fiscal 2019, more than $65 billion in government IT investments was published to the IT Dashboard.
“There will not be another release of IT Portfolio data,” the GSA wrote an email. The government’s reason for withholding the data is not clear.
The IT Dashboard represents an important tool for federal contractors for strategic planning purposes, said Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president of the Professional Services Council, an Arlington, Va.-based group representing the government technology and professional services industry. Another group that stands to lose from OMB’s decision to withhold data is Congress, he said. “It’s been a useful tool, both from a budget standpoint as well as an oversight perspective. Congress should be concerned that they’re losing a readily available source of spending information.”
The dashboard “shines light onto the performance and spending of IT investments across the Federal Government,” according to the IT Dashboard’s site description. “The IT Dashboard gives the public access to the same tools and analysis that the government uses to oversee the performance of the Federal IT investments. The transparency and analysis features of the IT Dashboard make it harder for underperforming projects to go unnoticed, and easier for the government to focus action on the projects where it’s needed most.”
According to the president’s fiscal 2020 IT budget request, the number of programs that were on schedule and under budget declined from fiscal 2019. The share of low-risk, or “green” IT programs fell from 58 percent in fiscal 2019 to 41 percent in fiscal 2020.
Representatives from OMB and the General Services Administration did not respond to requests for comment.
Chris Cornillie is a federal market analyst with Bloomberg Government.
To contact the analyst on this story: Chris Cornillie in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org