Congress

FITARA included in compromise defense measure

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Civilian agency CIOs would be handed an array of new authorities under a provision in the compromise defense authorization bill, agreed to by members of the House and Senate Armed Services committees and set to come up for votes before lawmakers depart for the holiday recess.

The Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) would give federal agency CIOs a "significant role" in programming, budgeting, management, and governance of IT across bureaus and components of all civilian departments. CIOs must approve IT budget requests made to the Office of Management and Budget. All IT contracts for product and services are subject to CIO review. In addition, top managers are prevented from pillaging IT budgets to cover other program costs, unless the agency CIO OK’s the request. Top-level CIOs also have a say in the hiring of top IT officials at bureaus and components.

Unlike earlier drafts of the bill, the compromise version would permit bureau and component level IT officials to have the CIO title.

There's an agile component to the legislation, requiring CIOs to "certify that information technology investments are adequately implementing incremental development, as defined in capital planning guidance issued by the Office of Management and Budget."

An update to the Clinger-Cohen Act, FITARA has traveled a long road from its creation in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last year.

The bill was dropped from the final version of the defense authorization measure in 2013. But this time around the bill appears to have the full support of both Armed Services Committees.

The House plans to vote on the measure without opportunity for amendment, but the Senate could still attempt to alter the bill, which would require a second vote by the House and could stall the process. But Congress hasn’t missed a defense authorization deadline in more than 50 years, and both chairman – Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) and Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) are retiring, providing lawmakers with move incentive to push the bill through.

Other Provisions

FITARA also looks to boost the hiring and training of highly specialized cadres of IT acquisitions experts, program managers, and project managers within each civilian agency, through a blend of workforce development, direct hiring, inter-agency rotations, and innovative pilot programs. The legislation also would require the head of the Government Services Administration to develop policy for the purchase of government-wide software licenses, as a way to get a handle on sprawling software costs.

Though the measure resides in the NDAA, its impact will be most deeply felt on the civilian side. The Pentagon and intelligence agencies get a special carve out. However, the IT spending and budgeting processes will apply to business systems at the Department of Defense, though not to national security systems.

The Defense Department is included in a provision giving CIOs a hand in an annual IT portfolio review (modeled on PortfolioStat) to be conducted with the federal CIO and agency deputy secretaries. In the Pentagon, that review will be handled by the CIO and the deputy chief management officer. In a separate section, the measure provides for increasing the authority of the DCMO slot and creating a new position -- the undersecretary of Defense for business management and information.

The bill would also bake into law some of the Obama administration's Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative, which requires agencies to inventory their data centers, develop strategy to maximize the utilization of data centers and reduce energy costs through consolidation, and come up with metrics to measure their success and savings.

The compromise language does try to get the Pentagon to set policy on cloud migration -- which has proved a bit of a moving target for the military.While applauding the military's data center consolidation efforts, legislators see "software application rationalization and consolidation" as a needed next step.

Congress is asking the DOD CIO and CIOs at the individual services to "identify and prioritize the software applications in use throughout DOD that should be considered for migration to a cloud computing environment," and report their findings by Dec. 15, 2015. Defense CIOs will have to answer tough questions, including whether software that can't operate in the cloud can be modified or replaced.

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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