Congress

Takai takes FITARA to task for oversight provisions

Defense Department CIO Teri Takai speaking at a Feb. 20, 2014, press conference.

Pentagon CIO Terri Takai fears FITARA might get in the way of Pentagon realignment efforts already under way.

The Defense Department CIO and a top federal IT accountability expert agree that while many of the goals of the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act are laudable, some of the new oversight authorities built into the system might collide with the Pentagon's ability to run its own IT shop.

"We certainly applaud the legislation from the standpoint of intent," Teri Takai, CIO at the Defense Department, said at a Feb. 26 Senate hearing of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support. "It is important to have transparency and it is important to have visibility even for us as CIOs, to better manage the overall expenditures. "Unfortunately, [the bill] looks to try to manage that by additional oversight.

Takai noted that she is already required to report to the federal CIO about some of the areas of oversight spelled out in the bill.

Additionally, Takai was concerned the bill might collide with internal Pentagon realignment efforts ordered by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in December 2013, which put the CIO's office squarely in charge of business systems and the implementation of the Joint Information Environment (JIE), a long-term plan to standardize network architecture across the department. "There are some areas we believe we could move forward with the intent, but do it in a little different way than the level of oversight that's suggested in the bill," she said.

Dave Powner, director of information technology management issues at the Government Accountability Office, agreed in part. Though he said the bill was "spot on" in backing data center consolidation and transition to the cloud, he noted that there were reporting mechanisms already in place to provide transparency and visibility into IT projects.

"There's a fundamental question of whether OMB is doing the appropriate oversight of those policies. We have some issues with that. I think Congress is saying, if OMB is not going to oversee it, then we're going to oversee it. The bottom line on all this: Let's make sure that we better manage IT acquisitions and have the right transparency and oversight," Powner said.

The hearing, which also included DOD officials Katrina McFarland, assistant secretary of Defense for acquisition, and Kevin Scheid, acting deputy chief management officer, was convened to examine overall IT acquisition and management.

Powner focused on the IT Dashboard reporting process, saying that none of the 93 listed Defense projects show up as high-risk on the public-facing OMB site despite cost overruns and failure to hit scheduling targets.

"In order to manage problem projects, you have to acknowledge you have a problem," Powner said.

Part of the problem is that the Defense Department manages procurement risk using a system that is in large part designed for the multi-year deployment of large weapons systems, and does not mesh well with agile IT management.

"Right now, there's difference in lexicon on how we think," McFarland said. The department is working on ways to translate its risk calculation so that it applies to IT, she said.

Takai acknowledged the challenge.

"This is an incredibly difficult situation for us in terms of being sure that we have the right categorization and that we're communicating their categorization correctly," she said, adding that the current information about the federal IT Dashboard was not all correct. The department is working on a new directive to better define the status of defense IT projects according to IT Dashboard categories.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is FCW's senior staff writer, and covers Congress, health IT and governmentwide IT policy. Connect with him on Twitter: @thisismaz.

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