CIOs float plan for federal IT architecture

A committee of the Chief Information Officers Council has issued a draft plan for a government-wide information technology architecture designed to help agencies meet a mandate to align computer systems with agency business and mission needs.

While the plan does not provide a detailed overview of a single federal architecture, it instead presents a model that agencies can use to find specific technologies that may overlap with common business practices, said Michael Tiemann, chairman of the CIO Council committee that authored the plan. If agencies use the model, the council hopes such use will result in the convergence of agency infrastructures so that agencies can share data— such as common data repositories across business areas — and lead to less government spending on IT overall.

"If we're investing $26 billion a year in information technology in the government, how much of that are we spending to make sure it meets our business needs?" Tiemann asked. "Very little. We could potentially have twice as good solutions that meet a third more needs for a third less money."

Tiemann's committee plans to present the final plan, along with a business case for developing a governmentwide architecture, to the CIO Council in September.

Tiemann said government officials who use the model would be able to tackle tasks such as defining how many e-mail technologies and corresponding standards are being used within the federal government. Then officials trying to develop a governmentwide interoperable e-mail system could determine where compatible technologies are being used for common business practices.

Agencies are required by law to create IT architectures that ensure the alignment of IT solutions to agency business and mission.

However, the model is not a mechanism to force a "one-size-fits-all" technology solution on agencies, according to the draft, the "Federal Information Architecture Conceptual Model"; instead, a convergence of technologies over time may be necessary.

John Cavallini, director of technology and planning at DynCorp and a former member of the Government Information Technology Services Board, said a common architecture would help agencies understand the under-lying IT infrastructures and aid in choosing which tools the government as a whole should use to process data.

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