FITARA to get another look in the House

Rep. Darrell Issa

Rep. Darrell Issa's Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act has already made it through the House once, and is likely to do so again on Tuesday.

A bill to expand federal CIO authorities, close data centers and cut down on wasteful and duplicative IT spending will get another look in the House on Feb. 25.

The Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act has been modified from the version that passed the House as part of the defense authorization bill in June. The new version would include the Defense Department in the expanded CIO authorities over hiring and the acquisition of service-wide IT, and the DOD CIO post would be subject to presidential appointment and Senate confirmation.

The revised measure also would establish a three-year pilot program to develop new guidelines for the acquisition of commonly used IT applications, to be run by the Office of Management and Budget, with a staff of at least 12 program managers to be picked by the CIO Council. The previous iteration of FITARA would have established the office on a permanent basis.

Finally, the revised version would require quarterly updates from agency CIOs on projects listed on the Federal IT Dashboard certifying that the financial and risk assessment information is up to date. OMB is charged with conducting quarterly reviews with an eye to identifying agencies that haven't supplied current information on IT projects, or that have data quality problems.

There were separate efforts in the Senate to include pieces of FITARA as amendments to the defense authorization measure, but none were added as Congress fast-tracked the Pentagon policy bill hashed out by committee chairs

Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) introduced a version of FITARA, co-sponsored by Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), that includes expansion of CIO authorities but not the data center consolidation section.

According to an aide to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and a leading supporter of FITARA, the revised bill could be implemented at a cost that is far lower than previously estimated. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that FITARA would cost $145 million over five years, while the new version clocks in at less than $50 million over the same period. CBO estimates don't take into account anticipated savings from FITARA, only outlays required for implementation.

The House will also take up the FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act, sponsored by Issa and backed by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), ranking member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The bill would create a centralized online government hub for document requests under the Freedom of Information Act. The bill would require agencies to create plans to release certain categories of documents on a regular basis without requiring FOIA request procedures. Documents requested and released more than three times under FOIA would be posted permanently online, so that requesters could find them with a simple search. The bill also expands the authority of the Office of Government and Information Services at the National Archive and Records Administration to oversee agency compliance with FOIA laws and policies.

The two bills are part of a slate of legislation being taken up under suspension of House rules as part of what Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) is calling "Stop Government Abuse Week."

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy, health IT and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mr. Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian started his career as an arts reporter and critic, and has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, Architect magazine, and other publications. He was an editorial assistant and staff writer at the now-defunct New York Press and arts editor at the online network in the 1990s, and was a weekly contributor of music and film reviews to the Washington Times from 2007 to 2014.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.

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