Congress

FITARA proposed as part of Senate defense package

U.S. Capitol at Night with Trees

Sometimes timing is everything. The Oct. 1 launch of HealthCare.gov put problems with federal IT procurement and project management in the spotlight like never before. Now some lawmakers are trying to expedite an overhaul of federal acquisition rules.

And they have ready-made legislation at hand that is designed to improve accountability and training for federal CIOs and IT procurement officers. The Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act, backed by Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), passed the House as part of the defense authorization bill in June. Now, FITARA is being proposed as an amendment to the defense bill being debated in the Senate.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) has proposed an amendment to the authorization measure that contains most of the House version of FITARA .

"The problems with the Affordable Care Act website highlight the need for a larger effort to upgrade our information technology infrastructure," Shaheen said in a statement. "What we're doing right now is outdated, expensive and inefficient. We have to upgrade the way we do business, boost accountability and oversight, and put in place the right kind of federal IT infrastructure for the future, and we have to do it now."

"I share the senator's view that HealthCare.gov should serve as a motivator for all members to work together in a bipartisan and bicameral fashion to finally modernize the laws governing federal IT acquisition," Connolly told FCW in a statement.

The data center consolidation section of FITARA was introduced as a separate amendment to the Senate bill by Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), chairman and ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, respectively.

Taken together, the two amendments mirror the version of FITARA passed by the House.

Separately, Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) have proposed an amendment that would add only FITARA'S enhanced CIO authorities to the defense bill.

President Barack Obama has not weighed in on FITARA specifically, but in the wake of the HealthCare.gov debacle, he has spoken publicly about the need to reform IT procurement and management.

"There is a larger problem that I probably -- [speaking] personally, but also as the administration -- could have identified earlier, and that is the way the federal government does procurement and does IT is just generally not very efficient," Obama said at a Nov. 19 business event. "In fact, there's probably no bigger gap between the private sector and the public sector than IT. So what we probably needed to do on the front end was to blow up how we procure for IT, especially on a system this complicated. We did not do that successfully. Now, we are getting it fixed, but it would have been better to do it on the front end rather than the back end."

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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