House panel hands out failing grades for FITARA implementation

Report Card

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's FITARA Implementation Scorecard is out, and it isn't pretty.

The report, timed to Nov. 4 hearing on Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act, is filled with grades for agency implementation efforts that range from underwhelming to outright failing.

The Departments of Education and Energy received Fs, as did NASA.

The D-grade agencies included the Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Labor, State, Transportation and Treasury. The National Science Foundation, Small Business Administration, Social Security Administration and U.S. Agency for International Development also received Ds.

The Departments of Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs and Interior all got Cs, along with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Nuclear Regulatory Council.

Only the Department Commerce and the General Services Administration received Bs, which were the highest overall mark given.

David Powner, the Government Accountability Office's IT oversight hawk, said agencies have been slow in making public reports available. Additionally, he noted in his testimony, the President's Management Council hasn't yet designated officials to provide updates on government-wide FITARA implementation, despite a June 30 deadline.

"One way to look at it is as a baseline," said federal CIO Tony Scott at the hearing. "The hope is to seize the moment. The real measure will be in six months to a year from now," he said.

The committee's grades were based on data it requested from GAO, and focused on four critical areas in FITARA rules: data center consolidation, IT portfolio review savings, incremental development and risk assessment transparency.

Data center consolidation is a particular trouble spot, with 14 agencies receiving failing grades in that category. HUD, SBA and USAID still haven't reported planned data center consolidations, according to the report card.

Scott was pleased that each agency covered by the rules had turned in self-assessments and implementation plans. At the same time, come common failings emerged, including significant, but sometimes unhelpful delegation of duties.

"There was often a gap in CIO involvement in budget formulation activities," he said. "To the extent that significant involvement was delineated, it was often related to major agency-wide investments and not to investments at the bureau and program levels." Additionally, Scott noted that implementation plans, "often reflected a passive rather than active CIO role in IT budget execution activities, such as those of planning expenditures, evaluating IT performance, or reprogramming of funds."

That sounds like bad news all around, but one of FITARA's architects noted that the grades weren't intended as punishment.

"I want to caution my colleagues, our partners in the administration, and others in the federal IT community that this scorecard is not intended to be a juridical exercise," Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said. "It should not be considered a 'scarlet letter' on the backs of federal agencies."

"This initial assessment is a point-in-time snapshot," Connolly explained in a statement. "Much like the quarterly report cards issued in our schools, we fully expect agency scores to ebb and flow based on their performance over time."

Connolly characterized the scorecard more as a call to action to "seize this moment and use this scorecard as a management tool to better guide decision making and investments."

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 [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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