With sequestration and looming budget cuts, it’s hard to know what the future of federal government IT will look like.
To make it a little easier, FedScoop created a quick guide on a piece of legislation that’s getting a lot of attention right now: the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act.
The Government Accountability Office released a report in February 2012 stating it found, within the Departments of Defense and Energy, 37 of its sample of 810 investments to be potentially duplicative. According to the report, “these investments account for about $1.2 billion in total information technology spending for fiscal years 2007 through 2012.”
In response to the GAO report, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., released a draft bill called the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act, or FITARA. The goal of the bill is to minimize the waste, inefficiency and duplications that exist within the federal IT infrastructure.
Congressman Issa believes that up to $20 billion in taxpayer money is wasted each year as a result of these deficits.
Here are the primary modifications the bill will make to the current federal IT infrastructure.
Changes to the role and responsibilities of agency CIOs:
- Each agency will have only one CIO. Agencies can have deputy CIOs, but the head of the agency must consult with the CIO in designating or appointing these deputies. Federal civilian agency CIOs will now be presidential appointees or designees.
- Increased CIO authority over IT. Amounts appropriated for any civilian agency for any fiscal year that are available for IT will be allocated within the agency as determined by the CIO of that agency.
- Personnel related authority. The head of each agency will ensure that their CIO has the authority to approve the hiring of staff with IT responsibilities.
Role of the CIO Council:
- The council is designated as the lead interagency forum for improving agency coordination of practices related to the design, acquisition, development, modernization, use, operation and information sharing. In this capacity, the council will develop cross-agency portfolio management policies to allow for the development of shared services and platforms. In order to maintain oversight for the council, the U.S. comptroller general will examine the effectiveness of the CIO Council in meeting its duties.
Federal data center optimization initiative:
- Within six months of the enactment of the bill, the federal CIO, in consultation with other agency CIOs, will develop and submit to Congress a plan for the implementation of the Federal Data Center Optimization Initiative. Each covered agency CIO must annually report to the federal CIO regarding their agency’s implementation of the act including the savings resulting from the implementation.
Elimination of IT acquisition duplication and waste:
- The director of the Office of Management and Budget will develop a plan for conducting a government-wide inventory of all federal IT assets and submit this to Congress within six months of the enactment of the bill. Two years after the enactment of bill, the director will implement this plan which will include methods for Federal agencies to attain the greatest possible cost-savings in IT acquisition.
- Federal Infrastructure and Common Application Collaboration Center – The director of OMB will develop and house the collaboration center which will serve as a focal point for coordinated program management practices and will help develop and maintain requirements for the acquisition of IT infrastructure and common applications commonly used by federal agencies. The center would also help federal CIOs with TechStat reviews on problematic IT projects.
- Assisted Acquisition Centers of Excellence – The bill will designate certain agencies as the go-to centers for complex IT acquisition for other federal agencies. They will offer streamlined contracts and technical expertise. The centers will further centralize the knowledge of specialists, allaying the shortage of skilled federal IT acquisition staff. Agencies can, but are not required, to consult with these centers regarding acquisition practices.
Broader reforms and impact:
- The bill encourages a broader transition to cloud solutions by giving agency CIOs the capital funds necessary for the transition, makes it easier for agencies to adopt open source software, opens up federal websites and data for the development of complimentary apps and encourages faster data center optimization.
U.S. Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel does not believe the bill is necessary because “eliminating duplicative IT, reforming Federal IT management and streamlining service delivery were at the core of the Administration’s first term IT agenda.”
VanRoekel, in his testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on January 22, further stated, “my objective is to balance cost savings with innovation by continuing to cut costs while we invest in technology that securely services the American people.”
FITARA will likely be introduced by Chairman Issa this month. Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., has stated he plans to co-sponsor the bill.
“Accomplishing major reform will not be easy. But streamlining our obsolete approach to federal IT needs to be at the heart of our effort to protect taxpayer dollars from further waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement,” said Chairman Issa in his testimony on February 27.