FITARA's CIO vision clashes with DHS's approach

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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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Reader comments

Mon, Aug 12, 2013 xCIO Washington, DC

All due respect to Mr. Borras, I'd feel much more comfortable with Richard Spire's opinion on how FITARA would work for DHS, not the assessment of someone selling Secretary Napolitano's failure to support a CIO intent on actually consolidating DHS information systems despite the objections of the chief executives of each of the aggregated silos that became DHS largely in name only. A good dose of FITARA might be exactly what DHS needs to empower a CIO achieve the economies that consolidation and shared services could have achieved. Mr. Borras implies they only want a doer, not a thinker, much less a colleague in the CIO's office. Just more Napolitano think...

Fri, Aug 9, 2013 Owen Ambur Silver Spring, MD

The nine strategies are now available in open, standard, machine-readable StratML format at The cross-agency priorities goals are available in StratML format at

Thu, Aug 8, 2013

interesting management construct that you'd only see in government...getting functional folks to work together as an end goal. The end goal should be using IT to make DHS more productive.

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