Agencies take first scary steps under FITARA

Tony Scott  (Photo: VMware)

U.S. CIO Tony Scott

Some component-level CIOs could lose their jobs as a result of reforms ushered in by the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act, says federal CIO Tony Scott.

"I'm a big fan of FITARA," said Scott, who suggested the new rules would help good CIOs become better, while also weeding out some underperformers.

Scott, other federal IT managers and lawmakers participated in an April 14 panel discussion hosted by the Association for Federal Information Resources Management.

The law, Scott said, "won't make a lousy CIO into a great one." Nor will it cripple good CIOs, he added. The legislation that went on the books late last year overhauls longstanding frameworks that manage how the federal government buys new technology, including a central CIO position within each agency.

Whether the new rules would eliminate some of the multiple-component agency CIOs remains to be seen, said Scott. As agencies take their first steps to adhere to the new rules in the coming months, however, "we'll find out shortly."

Benjamin Rhodeside, a senior policy advisor for Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), one of the architects of the law, concurred in Scott's assessment.

"It's not inconceivable that component agency CIOs will lose their responsibilities," Rhodeside said, as agencies move ahead with plans to streamline and reorganize their IT operations under FITARA.

Since coming to the Office of Management and Budget as federal CIO, Scott said he has seen the potential for FITARA. The law sets up a framework for acquiring better IT and implementing efficiencies, while also mandating a much-needed conversation among acquisition, IT and management operations. "I've seen examples [in commercial companies] of no alignment between IT operations, and business suffers," he said.

Agencies are figuring out how to take those steps, but await promised guidance from OMB that will provide a clearer picture. Scott said that guidance should be issued within the next six to eight weeks.

Margie Graves, deputy CIO at the Department of Homeland Security, said each agency's path to implementation is unique, because each has its own structure. She said FITARA provides a rare opportunity for a thorough revision of outdated acquisition policies.

"This has been a long time coming," she said. "We'd better make it work and make it stick."

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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