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Civilian and Defense IT Budgets Set to Receive Boost in 2019

Following a bellicose election season, nonpartisan issues can seem hard to come by. Yet amid the chaos, IT modernization remains a priority of both parties heading into 2019, and IT spending is set to increase for both civilian and defense budgets, according to new research.

In a recent press conference, members of the Professional Services Council (PSC), a trade council representing the government technology and services industry, projected that civilian agency IT budgets would see a steady rise – 2.2 percent to keep up with inflation – and defense IT budgets would receive a sharp 8.9 percent increase in 2019.

The Defense Department (DoD) infusion bucks a recent trend. Over prior years, civilian agency IT budgets consistently outpaced Defense Department counterparts.

PSC compiled the research of 22 study teams and market economists and conducted 300 interviews before revealing the statistics, which were showcased at the Vision Federal Market Forecast held at the end of October.

“I think what we’re going to see across the federal government is most of the changes will be incremental in nature and not necessarily any big, huge movements,” Lou Crenshaw, Vision Volunteer, said.

While yet to be finalized, the 2020 budget likely won’t offer agencies the same fuel for IT modernization. Rich McFarland, Vision Volunteer, said PSC expected a 5 to 25 percent reduction of funding for their customers. In March, Congress will evaluate the president’s budget request for 2020.

The report held several surprises for 2019 as well, although all comparatively slight.

Shared services will occupy an estimated 2.7 percent of IT spending, below the level some expected. Cloud spending reports have been inconsistent, researchers said, but are also smaller shares at 2.5 percent of IT budgets. Major investments remain the primary expenditure of agency IT departments.

Additionally, the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) and Working Capital Funds have not yet caught on with chief information officers (CIOs) as promoted by federal efforts.

Although departments are not faced with dramatic spending disparities, the federal government is pushing a widespread IT cultural change.

“It’s really about Technology Business Management (TBM),” said Steve Vetter, Vision Volunteer. “We’ve seen that changes are being tempted at an unprecedented scale across the federal enterprise.”

TBM is an IT strategy that focuses on data accountability and tracking mission results throughout digital transformation processes. Washington state has famously adopted it statewide.

With TBM, the federal government has encouraged agencies to adopt Agile and DevOps methods, while focusing on continuous improvement. Savings that agencies net will be put toward agency missions, in contrast to trying to conserve dollars.

“It’s going to… improve the quality of data,” Vetter said. “These are cultural challenges that are extremely daunting, but the outlook is promising.”

National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy documents are guiding new government practices, Crenshaw said. Yet, their primary yield is in shaping agency priorities, more so than monetary influence.

Through the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) and TBM, the onus is on agencies to achieve mission progress with every IT improvement.

GovLoop has reported on federal adoption of TBM over the course of the year. According to the President’s Management Agenda, TBM should be fully implemented governmentwide by 2022.

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