Obama CIO Debuts Federal IT Spending Tracker

As the Obama administration continues its experiment with new Web-based tools to make good on its commitment to transparency and accountability in government, Federal CIO Vivek Kundra today unveiled a site that enables federal agencies and the public to track government spending on IT investments.

Introduced in beta with the tagline “your window into the federal IT portfolio,” the IT dashboard pulls data on technology investments from the various agencies and presents it in a variety of graphical formats complete with an evaluation from the agency’s CIO.

On a conference call with reporters, Kundra said the new site is an effort “to make sure that we are not in an era of faceless accountability.”

For instance, the Department of Defense, by far the biggest spender on IT in the federal government, reported $9.6 billion in planned IT investments in the current fiscal year. Of those, 3 individual projects, or 5 percent of the pie, are flagged by the department’s CIO with “significant concerns,” indicating that the project is running behind schedule or over budget.

The IT dashboard allows users to take a closer look at the projects reported, identifying the prime contractor and, in some cases, the subs, the date the contract was awarded and when it is due to be completed.

Obama’s latest e-government initiative follows the roll-out of Data.gov, which enables users to mine government databases, and the revamped Regulations.gov, a clearinghouse of the rules in place across the agencies.

The new site offers a sharing feature, which allows data to be pulled into the social sites Facebook, Twitter and Delicious.

It also contains a feed option, so users can receive automatic updates of raw data, which Kundra envisions being applied to mashups or other applications to spread a culture of open source-style transparency across the government.

An environmental activist group, for instance, might tap into the dashboard to monitor spending at the Environmental Protection Agency and track the progress of various investments, posting that data on its Web site.

Kundra stressed that the beta version of the IT dashboard is just that, a trial run that will see broader participation among the agencies as the site evolves.

“This is version 1.0 and you’re going to see a number of features iterated, not on an annual basis, but on a weekly and a monthly basis,” he said, hinting at plans to expand the online tracking to other areas of the budget.

“This is a direction we’re headed in as an administration,” Kundra said.

As part of the new initiative, the Office of Management and Budget is requiring the agencies to submit progress reports every 30 days, rather than the quarterly or annual schedules agency CIOs have previously worked under.

“The frequency of that reporting is vital, because that enables us to actually change and course-correct,” Kundra said.

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