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Federal government hopes to use more data despite sequester

Rachel Wheeler

July 19, 2013

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There's tremendous potential for the federal government to make more out of data quality. By gathering more information on each individual line in the budget - how much it costs, where specifically that money goes and what effect the spending ultimately has - lawmakers can go through their plans with a fine-toothed comb and eliminate wasteful objectives. Considering the massive scope of the annual federal budget, the savings of a big data initiative could be enormous.

Unfortunately, there's a catch-22. Big data could save Washington boatloads of cash, but to see any of those savings, Congress must first allocate significant resources to the development of its IT capabilities. According to CIO, the sequester has had an adverse effect on Congress' IT budget.

The news source specified that training and workforce development was slashed by 51 percent this year, while hardware upgrades lost 48 percent, software upgrades 41 percent and app development 40 percent. Those are deep cuts in an area that could significantly benefit the government long-term.

"As far as the sequestration goes, probably 50 percent of projects have been affected," Rich Campbell, chief technologist at EMC Federal, told CIO. "Of that 50 percent, probably 25 percent to 30 percent have experienced significant impact. Sequestration has definitely had an effect, but from my perspective, it's been somewhat beneficial."

Why beneficial? Because in being forced to do more with less, government agencies are more clearly defining their priorities. They're finding the most specific areas possible where data analysis can play a role. This way, they're spending their limited funds on precisely the initiatives they need most.

According to FCW, a Meritalk survey suggested that big data may ultimately save the government $500 billion. That may someday prove to be true, but the reality is this: Before Washington saves any money, it needs to spend some first.

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