Sprehe: Being overly simplistic

Federal enterprise architecture principles treat government as one entity. Who are they kidding?

The Office of Management and Budget recently issued architecture principles for the federal government that invite commentary on what the principles say and how they say it.  

The principles display wondrous oversimplification.

Consider the principle that states the federal government is a single, unified enterprise. This ludicrous statement makes you wonder what they have been smoking at OMB. They cannot be talking about the same government we encounter daily in its enormous diversity, with agencies often working at cross purposes.

Similarly, to state that the government exists to offer services and information to the public reduces to platitudes the rich complexity of what federal agencies do.

I find it particularly curious that the principle of security and protecting information appears before we learn that information is a national asset. What a perfect mirror of the government mindset after the 2001 terrorist attacks. First, we secure a thing and then we try to figure out its value. Surely, it ought to be the other way around.

The rationale and implications of information as a national asset also invite comment. Here’s an administration that makes headlines each day for refusing to divulge information to Congress and the public, yet it invokes the dictum that a well-informed citizenry is essential to democracy. Have these people no sense of irony? The implications of information as a national asset all relate to information sharing. The chronic disaster in government is a failure to manage information well and create an enduring marriage between information technology management and information management.

However, the principles are silent on managing information as an asset.

Speaking of information sharing and the government as a single enterprise, someone should pass the word about that policy to the Army. In August, the Army clarified its information sharing policy to say that, notwithstanding existing intergovernmental data-sharing agreements, the service will make decisions about data sharing on a case-by-case basis.

The principles ask us to believe that the program simplifies government operations and is designed to reduce complexity and enable integration. Despite the upbeat OMB-think rhetoric, most agencies see those principles as a new budget-cutting device. This is one way OMB identifies the IT systems it considers duplicative and blocks funding for them. Is that simplification? No, the principles introduce a new layer of complexity.

The architecture principles show a rosy view of the world is alive and well at OMB. Their enunciation, however flawed, is praiseworthy.

Yet the business-centered vision at their core will probably fade when the current administration leaves office in 2009, so the principles are hardly timeless.

Sprehe is president of Sprehe Information Management Associates in Washington. He can be reached at jtsprehe@jtsprehe.com.  

About the Author

Tim Sprehe is president of Sprehe Information Management Associates in Washington.

The 2015 Federal 100

Meet 100 women and men who are doing great things in federal IT.

Featured

  • Shutterstock image (by venimo): e-learning concept image, digital content and online webinar icons.

    Can MOOCs make the grade for federal training?

    Massive open online courses can offer specialized IT instruction on a flexible schedule and on the cheap. That may not always mesh with government's preference for structure and certification, however.

  • Shutterstock image (by edel): graduation cap and diploma.

    Cybersecurity: 6 schools with the right stuff

    The federal government craves more cybersecurity professionals. These six schools are helping meet that demand.

  • Rick Holgate

    Holgate to depart ATF

    Former ACT president will take a job with Gartner, follow his spouse to Vienna, Austria.

  • Are VA techies slacking off on Yammer?

    A new IG report cites security and productivity concerns associated with employees' use of the popular online collaboration tool.

  • Shutterstock image: digital fingerprint, cyber crime.

    Exclusive: The OPM breach details you haven't seen

    An official timeline of the Office of Personnel Management breach obtained by FCW pinpoints the hackers’ calibrated extraction of data, and the government's step-by-step response.

  • Stephen Warren

    Deputy CIO Warren exits VA

    The onetime acting CIO at Veterans Affairs will be taking over CIO duties at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

  • Shutterstock image: monitoring factors of healthcare.

    DOD awards massive health records contract

    Leidos, Accenture and Cerner pull off an unexpected win of the multi-billion-dollar Defense Healthcare Management System Modernization contract, beating out the presumptive health-records leader.

  • Sweating the OPM data breach -- Illustration by Dragutin Cvijanovic

    Sweating the stolen data

    Millions of background-check records were compromised, OPM now says. Here's the jaw-dropping range of personal data that was exposed.

  • FCW magazine

    Let's talk about Alliant 2

    The General Services Administration is going to great lengths to gather feedback on its IT services GWAC. Will it make for a better acquisition vehicle?

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above