FITARA's CIO vision clashes with DHS's approach

tech manager

What kind of authority should the CIO have? (Stock image)

The Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA), which the House passed as part of the defense authorization bill in June, runs counter to a more enterprise-based approach being employed at the Department of Homeland Security, a senior official there said.

FITARA would empower agency CIOs to exercise budget authority over technology spending, assume control of hiring and report directly to agency heads.


Read "Building the Enterprise: Nine Strategies for a More Integrated, Effective Government," by the Partnership for Public Service.

Rafael Borras, undersecretary for management at DHS, said his department "is trying to integrate all the various management disciplines," including the chief financial officer, chief procurement officer and CIO, to encourage collaboration. "So we don’t need to turn the CIOs into budget experts. We don't need to turn them into financial planners," he said. "They really need to be focused on execution and delivery, making sure that we're leveraging technology."

Borras cited agile development, the digital-mobile strategy and the move to the cloud as examples of IT developments from the last four years that were accomplished along collaborative lines.

FITARA also would redefine CIO authority and make the position a presidential appointee.

Borras said it’s the wrong way to go. "That aspect of FITARA that looks as a solution to the empowerment of CIOs, in the context of the conversation we've had today around the enterprise, it really doesn't make a lot of sense to me," he said.

"To turn [CIOs] into institutionally complete organizations that do their own budgeting, their own hiring, I think defeats the purpose and runs what the president's management agenda is talking about -- it's forcing us to work better together," Borras said.

Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel said in January that he already has the authority to accomplish many of the policy goals spelled out in the bill.

The legislation also includes a variety of other provisions designed to reduce waste and duplication in IT spending, speed the government's data center consolidation initiative and improve training for acquisition personnel.

Borras made his remarks to reporters after an Aug. 8 event at the Partnership for Public Service for the release of a new report, "Building the Enterprise: Nine Strategies for a More Integrated, Effective Government." The report offers a series of steps to increase collaboration across agencies with an eye to getting government to operate at peak efficiency and within the limits of the caps on discretionary spending under the Budget Control Act.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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