White House releases first draft of FITARA guidelines

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The White House’s Office of Management and Budget has lifted the curtain on its guidelines regarding the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act, publishing draft guidelines Thursday for agencies to comment on and contribute to over the next few weeks.

Passed in December as part of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, FITARA gives more authority and responsibility to agency CIOs, providing more control when it comes to purchasing IT, hiring bureau leadership and directing mission programs within the agencies.

In a tweet announcing the draft, federal CIO Tony Scott called FITARA the “biggest Federal IT legislation in a decade.”

A key focus of the guidelines is OMB’s call for agencies to adopt a “common baseline” for how CIOs will delegate resources and responsibilities when it comes to their newfound authorities. FITARA calls for CIOs to be heavily involved in budget submissions and requests, program management, and oversight of their agency’s IT workforce.

The draft states that the baseline will be required at all agencies covered under the CFO Act. However the guidelines point out that agencies with systems related to national security only have to follow portions of FITARA.

“The Department of Defense, the Intelligence Community, and portions of other agencies that operate systems related to national security are subject to only certain portions of FITARA and shall meet with OMB no later than 60 days following the final release of this guidance to clarify the applicability of this guidance throughout their organizations and activities, including alternative requirements or exceptions,” the guidance reads.

FITARAbaseline
A chart detailing the common baseline the White House wants agencies to establish as part of FITARA. (CIO.gov)

Another section of the guidelines details how agencies will deal with quarterly and monthly reports related to the cost savings, avoidance and reductions in duplicative IT investments. While previously only held to annual PortfolioStat meetings, agency CIOs will now have to meet with OMB quarterly to discuss data related to various IT performance metrics. CIOs will also be required to hold in-person TechStat meetings if an IT investment is determined to be high-risk for three straight months.

The guidelines also diagram how CIOs should operate with regard to the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative and the requirements around governmentwide software purchasing agreements.

The guidance was posted on GitHub, allowing interested parties to submit comments through the open-source code management platform’s “pull request” or “issues” feature. The comment period will be open until May 30, but OMB suggests submitting comments before May 15 so they may be “adequately considered.”

“Similar to the best practices for agile software development promoted in our existing guidance and strategy documents, we believe this iterative learning approach will allow us to refine our perspective on whether any specific input is needed to help address issues raised early in the process,” the guidance reads.

Read the full document at CIO.gov.

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Agencies, Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA), Government IT News, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), workforce
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