Congress

House passes FITARA (again)

U.S. Capitol

The House passed the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act on a Feb. 25 voice vote.

The bill has been modified since its passage in the House as part of the defense bill in June 2013. Its core of consolidating authority to hire and make budget decisions around a department-level CIO is still intact, however. Under FITARA, government agencies would have a single CIO, appointed by the president and reporting to the agency head, with more authority over IT executives at component agencies than is typically the case. The bill has been expanded to include the Department of Defense.

"There are more than 250 identified CIOs in the federal government, yet none possess the necessary authority to effectively manage IT investments. This has resulted in duplicative and wasteful IT spending, with taxpayers forced to foot the bill for massive IT program failures that ring up staggeringly high costs, but exhibit astonishingly poor performance," Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), a co-sponsor of the legislation, said in remarks on the House floor.

The cause of IT reform gathered steam in Congress amid the botched rollout of HealthCare.gov. There was a push to attached FITARA to the Senate version of the defense bill, but ultimately the measure was scrubbed. Some of the provisions of FITARA have been introduced in the Senate on a bipartisan basis, but the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, which has jurisdiction over federal contracting, has yet to hold hearings on the measure.

Industry groups quickly praised the progress in the cause of IT acquisition reform, if not every facet of the bill that passed. Stan Soloway, CEO of the Professionals Services Council, stated, "We are particularly pleased that the bill encourages a reliance on true 'best value' solutions, in lieu of lowest price solutions that aren't suited to complex IT investment." Soloway also noted that, "We believe that reforms beyond those in your bill are needed and urge you to remain diligent with your leadership on these issues."

Mike Hettinger, senior vice president for public sector and federal government affairs of the trade group TechAmerica, praised the expanded CIO authorities and data center consolidation provisions, but noted, "we still have questions regarding some provisions in this legislation."

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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