IT bill would hold CIOs accountable, step up oversight

Senators say bill 'has the potential to save billions of taxpayer dollars'

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) has introduced legislation that would require agency CIOs to review an IT project if it deviates 20 percent or more from its baseline cost estimate and would codify the Office of Management and Budget’s Federal IT Dashboard.

Carper introduced the Information Technology Investment Management Act of 2011 (S.801 [PDF]) the evening of April 12. The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Scott Brown (R-Mass.).

Carper announced the legislation during a hearing earlier that day on the Obama administration’s 25-point IT reform plan.


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Carper said the bill is a response to a series of hearings he has held over the past three years that examined federal agencies’ management of costly, high-risk IT projects. One example was the malfunctioning of handheld data collection devices used by 2010 census workers that resulted in an addition $1 billion in costs.

“It’s clear that federal agencies are dropping the ball when it comes to deploying the right technology in a timely and cost-effective manner,” Carper said. “This legislation will provide the planning and oversight needed to reduce waste and improve the federal government’s information technology operations.”

The bill would call on agencies to develop IT management and development programs to prevent projects from getting off track and would greatly step up congressional oversight of IT.

For example, if an IT project deviated 40 percent or more from its baseline cost estimate, the federal CIO would be required to review it. After the review, OMB would have to provide Congress with the results of the review, including the major problems faced by the project, how they would be fixed and who is accountable to make sure that happened.

Agencies would also be asked to identify “core” projects that are crucial because of their cost, mission criticality or risk and submit additional planning information to the IT Dashboard for those projects. 

And, if an agency failed to submit information to the dashboard or conduct timely reviews, additional funds would not be appropriated to support expenses associated with the project under the new legislation.
 
Collins said the legislation would deal with “previous IT project failures by requiring more standardization, greater transparency, and increased metric inputs to keep projects as close as possible to their initial cost, schedule and performance goals.”

In addition, the bill would allow OMB to release guidance on providing cash bonuses and other incentives to recognize excellent performance by government employees in the acquisition of information systems and IT.
 
At the hearing on the administration’s reform effort, Federal CIO Vivek Kundra said he also hopes to work with Congress on greater budget flexibilities and to consolidate commodity IT spending under department CIOs.

About the Author

Alyah Khan is a staff writer covering IT policy.

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