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US Treasury wasting tens of millions on a $1 million problem

A recent IT spending report for the US federal government shows a lot of waste.

CMS Watch's Kas Thomas is reporting that the US Treasury is asking to bump up its content management budget from $16.9 million to $28.2 million. Kas further notes that the budget is for commercial off-the-shelf software not consulting bloatware.

It also likely means no open-source software (Alfresco, Drupal, etc.), which is the only way that the Treasury could manage to waste tens of millions of dollars on a $1 million (or so) problem. Other departments within the US federal government (US military, most notably) are weaning themselves from the proprietary nipple, as the federal IT spending report shows. But not the Treasury.

This isn't sour grapes: A wide range of US federal agencies already use open-source enterprise content management software (and other open-source software), including Alfresco. Rather, it's the same song that I've sung before about other wasteful government spending on proprietary bloatware. Governments shouldn't overspend on technology that locks citizen data into proprietary, private-sector software companies. Period.

The US Treasury likely came up with the $28.2 million number by asking its existing proprietary vendors to tell it what it needs for 2009. Those vendors rubbed their hands gleefully and simply doubled whatever the Treasury was already spending with them. A few million in licenses and maintenance fees later, the US Treasury will likely be no closer to a true solution to its ECM needs (seethis example) and will be much farther from being able to ensure that it, not its vendor, owns citizen data.

The US Treasury's request should be denied. I'm willing to bet it could get equal or better functionality from open-source vendors, both in its content management needs and elsewhere. I encourage you to take a look at how the US government is spending its taxpayers' money.

Of course, you'll need to open the spreadsheet in Microsoft's proprietary .xls format. After all, shouldn't public information be locked into private, proprietary formats? :-)

This is the new pork-barrel politics: Proprietary vendors feeding at the US taxpayer's expense.

Disclosure: I am an employee of Alfresco. I am also a US taxpayer.