Guide for information technology architecture released to agencies

The Office of Management and Budget has issued guidelines that describe how agencies can comply with Clinger-Cohen Act provisions that demand computer systems be tied to a coherent information technology architecture.

The June 18 memo from OMB director Franklin Raines elaborates on the set of questions dubbed "Raines' rules " that agencies must answer to get money for their systems. When the rules were issued last fall agency managers said OMB needed to define what was meant by an IT architecture.

According to the memo an IT architecture should document the relationships among agency business processes and the information systems that support them. An architecture should have two elements: an "enterprise architecture " which describes existing and target systems and "technical reference model and standards profiles " which describe the specific technologies each agency uses and the technical specifications to which they conform.

The memo provides as potential models a summary of architecture documents from the Agriculture Defense Energy and Treasury departments."You can't just immediately adopt an architecture " said Ann Thomson Reed chief information officer with the USDA. "It takes a lot of work over a sustained period of time." Nevertheless she said the OMB memo "is an important starting point."

Agencies will apply the guidelines to fiscal 1999 budget submissions which agencies now are readying and that are due to OMB this fall. Reed said she expects budget examiners "are going to be looking to see whether we have made a credible start."

OMB officials could not be reached for comment. A copy of the memo is available from the Chief Information Officers Council Web site at www.cio.fed.gov/arch_pap.htm.

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