Interagency groups key to making IT work

In the wake of my retirement, I would like to share some philosophical thoughts with you and offer some feedback about what I have learned in my 30 years in the federal government, which includes more than 20 years in the information technology arena. In brief, give something back, invest in your future and realize that interagency committees form a vital function for IT.

Departments and agencies should support interagency committees. The CIO Council currently has six subcommittees, each researching and delving into important areas of systems interoperability, security, Year 2000, capital planning, improving IT skills and outreach.

Several important policy recommendations that have come out of the council include the architecture model, the IT Investment Portfolio System for investment management, a personal-use policy for federal IT equipment, a piracy management policy and several e-mail best practices. Before the CIO Council and its subcommittee structure were created, there were, at best, isolated pockets of collective thought given to these important matters.

Some agencies and agency executives do not see the value in interagency participation and sharing of intelligence. As managers, we are accountable for resources, people and funds with which we are entrusted. We have projects and programs to deliver and never enough resources to achieve all of the objectives. Nonetheless, I present the argument that despite the shortfall, it is very important that we all make some sort of investment in our collective future.

An example of collective work and successful products was the predecessor to the Information Technology Resources Board (ITRB), the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Improvement Team. The General Services Administration chartered FITAIT, under the leadership of Frank McDonough and Joe Thompson, to investigate and recommend methods for agencies and ourselves to deal with Brooks-era procurement problems. The team came up with a long list of best practices for acquisition activities. The team also came out of the experience with the understanding that its collection of experience and knowledge should be kept together to work on other cross-cutting problems.

Roger Johnson, GSA administrator at the time, with Thompson and McDonough, asked the team to review problem procurements and problem procurement programs. It actually performed three reviews for GSA, some having to do with the old delegated procurement authority program, for those who remember back that far. ITRB was born with Renny DiPentima, formerly deputy commissioner for systems at the Social Security Administration and now president of SRA Federal Systems, as its first chair. DiPentima was followed by Mary Ellen Condon and later by me.

ITRB has published four pamphlets since 1994 containing best practices and recommendations for IT management that its members learned through our collective experiences in the federal IT community. The ITRB membership includes 17 individuals from across government with a total of 425 years of experience. In our reviews, we examine problematic situations, and we have the opportunity to help our colleagues. We also discuss problems that we personally have experienced during our deliberations.

The sum of this is greater than the parts. We contribute to our IT community and gain new insights about improvements we can apply back at our home agencies. Give something back and invest in your future as well the CIO Council committees, and you will certainly profit. Encourage members of your staff to participate in these worthwhile activities with your support, not your sufferance, and reap the benefits.

-- Bresnick was associate CIO for policy at the Agriculture Department.


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