Why FITARA is more about management than IT

Tony Scott  (Photo: VMware)

Federal CIO Tony Scott

Agencies and federal IT leaders are busy ironing out the final implementation plans for new acquisition rules. Federal CIO Tony Scott is finding that agencies aren't so much concerned about technical IT issues raised by the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act, as they are about simply managing change. 

Federal agencies submitted their plans to manage and prioritize IT plans under FITARA rules in August to the Office of Management and Budget. Right now, OMB and the agenices are in a kind of pass-back period, with final plans set to be ready and posted publicly by Dec. 31.

"By and large, most agencies met expectations," said Scott  at the Federal IT Acquisition Summit in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 20.

There were no abject failures in the plans submitted. "Overall, I was pleased," Scott said, but nor were there stellar success. He graded the efforts in a range from "C minus" to "B plus," and declined to name agencies at either end of the scale.

Currently, Scott said, he is engaged in giving feedback to agencies and is meeting with them about forward-looking IT plans -- discussions he described as "fruitful."

Agencies are asking about the process side of FITARA.

"How do you get people management right? Things like delegation of authority, visibility, and transparency" are particularly challenging for large complex agencies, Scott said, adding: "This is…where the most conversations are going on."

Scott also noted that OMB's plan to limit computer acquisitions by federal agencies, which was unveiled on Oct. 16, is the first in a series of guidance his office plans on commodity IT services. Speaking with reporters after his speech, Scott said "it's too early to tell" the exact impact of the days-old acquisition edict, or how agencies are dealing with it. He added that he expects feedback soon from other agencies.

Additionally, Scott said in his keynote that he plans to issue guidance on another nagging IT issue:  How agencies should plan and budget for future IT plans instead of relying on what's become a traditional end-of-year spree in which federal agencies spend allotted IT money before the fiscal year ends.

"End of year buying," he said, "is symptomatic of a core problem we want to address in how we budget and plan for IT."  Homeowners, he said, plan for anticipated repairs and set aside money before a rotten roof or faulty water pipe cause expensive damage to their houses. Agency IT leaders should do the same to stave off problems and spend more wisely, he said.

That end-of-year guidance will come under OMB's Circular A-130 resources document, which is currently being updated, he said.

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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