CIO Scott: IT reform is 'different' this time
- By Adam Mazmanian
- Jun 15, 2015
Sweeping IT reform legislation has been tried before, but Federal CIO Tony Scott has high hopes for the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act.
Speaking at the 2015 CIO Council Symposium, Scott invoked the history of past reform efforts, like Clinger-Cohen, and said that FITARA could succeed where they failed.
"I do think this time it's different. I think times have changed and I think more and more people get that information technology is an integral part of everything we do, and success or failure depends on how well we do our jobs, and by implication how well good governance takes shape in any organization," Scott said.
The Obama administration issued guidance on implementing the new law June 10, giving agencies until Aug. 15 to submit IT governance plans to comport with the new CIO authorities and other aspects of the legislation.
Scott credited the key backers of the law, Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), with keeping focus on implementation.
"The authors of Clinger-Cohen left Congress shortly after it passed," Scott said. "The authors of this act aren't going anywhere anytime soon, they tell me. And they intend to be mindful watchers of how well we implement and what we do," he said.
Scott urged the audience of federal IT workers to think of FITARA primarily as a governance tool. "Technology and business process and government process are so intertwined that it's crazy to think about separating them," Scott said. FITARA, he said, gives structure to the interaction between IT leaders and senior leaders at an agency. It also codifies a number of administration initiatives dating back to the 25-point plan to improve federal IT under then-CIO Vivek Kundra.
But Scott still sees hurdles that are cultural, and not necessary subject to legislation.
"What I do see is a culture and set of soft rules that make it very hard for all of us to do our work every day. Some aren't actually law. Some of them are just norms that have developed in organizations or responses to roadblocks or issues of the past. So one of the exciting things that I'm dedicated to as a part of my tenure here is to help figure out how we can make IT in the federal government faster and more effective and more responsive to our time, and blow up some of the crazy stuff that all of us run into every single day," Scott said.
One factor driving IT reform that Scott alluded to is buy-in at the very top. In an interview with Fast Company about the growing U.S Digital Service program housed at the Office of Management and Budget, President Barack Obama discussed how plans to address shortcomings in federal IT management fell by the wayside in the midst of other priorities.
"With all the crises we were dealing with -- the economy collapsing, the auto industry on the verge of collapse, winding down wars -- this did not get the kind of laser-focused attention until HealthCare.gov, which was a well-documented disaster, but ended up anyways being the catalyst for us saying, 'OK, we have to completely revamp how we do things.'" Obama told the magazine.
Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.
Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy, health IT and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mr. Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian started his career as an arts reporter and critic, and has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, Architect magazine, and other publications. He was an editorial assistant and staff writer at the now-defunct New York Press and arts editor at the About.com online network in the 1990s, and was a weekly contributor of music and film reviews to the Washington Times from 2007 to 2014.
Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.