Translating the architecture principles

So, the Office of Management and Budget and the CIO Council, seven years into an administration that has a whole year left to make things right, have finally issued the long awaited and much anticipated high-level "Architecture Principles" for the U.S. government -- and they're saying the new principles (hammered out at great expense and effort after many meetings) "will balance department and agency mandates on the one hand and governmentwide interests on the other."

Can somebody please tell me what that last statement means? I think maybe it means it's going to get even harder for agency managers to buy the information technology systems they need to do their jobs. Let's try translating the seven architecture "principles" into plain English to see if we can tell what's really going on:

1. "The federal government focuses on people."
Translation: We're from the government and we're here to help you.

2. "The federal government is a single, unified enterprise."
Translation: Yes, the government has many different agencies doing many different things, but it's just too hard for us here at OMB to get our arms around that, so we want to make every agency operate just like every other agency, even if they do have different jobs to do.

3. "Federal agencies collaborate with other governments and people."
Translation: We wish. The Homeland Security Department can't even collaborate with itself, and the Army, Navy and Air Force are famous, of course, for working collaboratively to develop their budgets every year.

4. "The federal architecture is mission-driven."
Translation: Until now we've been working on a federal architecture because Congress told us 13 years ago we had to (Clinger Cohen Act 1994), but now we've finally realized that's been getting in the way of us working directly on our missions, so we have to change that.

5. "Security, privacy, and protecting information are core government needs."
Translation: Yes, we're going to go to shared services, which will make it easier for information to get spread around in places where it shouldn't. But don't worry because we're planning to lock up those shared services with so many passwords that nobody will be able to share anything, especially if it's really interesting or valuable or important.

6. "Information is a national asset."
Translation: Remember that information we just told you would be secure, private and protected? Well, it won't be, because it's a "national asset," which means it belongs to us!

7. "The federal architecture simplifies government operations."
Translation: We now realize all the effort and money spent in the past 13 years trying to build architectures hasn't simplified anything anywhere, but once the architecture for the entire federal government is finished -- except it will never be finished -- things really will be simpler. Really. And if you believe that, we have a bridge in Brooklyn we'd like to talk to you about.

This letter is in response to "OMB, CIO Council issue architecture principles."

Christopher Hanks

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