The big freeze at DOT

bills with tight belt

All IT spending at the Department of Transportation will be frozen for at least 90 days, according to a memo issued by DOT CIO Richard McKinney.

At the Transportation Department, the budgetary might of the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act is in full effect.

Earlier this month, DOT CIO Richard McKinney issued a memo freezing all IT spending for at least 90 days, or until DOT's component agencies give him complete spending plans so he – and they – can better manage spending and plan for the future.  And department CTO Maria Roat is actively backing the effort as well.

"We're putting the freeze on any IT spend in the department…until our nodes across the department are able to come up with and provide accurate spend plans of where they're going," Roat said at a Dec. 15 event sponsored by Carahsoft.

"I'm looking at the department as an enterprise," she added, saying some of the goals of the exercise including eliminating stovepipes and creating a more unified, less wasteful model of IT procurement.

"As I've said, we've [already] got one of everything," Roat noted, saying she hopes the plan pushes the department to better use existing assets instead of rushing to buy new toys. "We need to ensure that we're not chasing technology for technology's sake, but we're using what we have."

Will the exercise pan out?

"[T]his is just taking hold," McKinney told FCW, saying it was "too soon to tell" how things would go. Speaking at a Dec. 16 event hosted by NextGov, McKinney said the "pause" could likely last 120 days. The first of the spending plans hit his desk on Dec. 15, he said.

While others have argued for broader use of FITARA's financial power to curb runaway spending, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), one of FITARA's authors, offered a cautious endorsement of McKinney's action.

Calling McKinney's move a "dramatic example," Connolly said at the Dec. 16 event that it would be up to others to determine whether a department-wide spending freeze was technically within the scope of CIO powers granted by FITARA.

"I can't gainsay it, that is kind of where we wanted things to go...[empowering] a CIO where the buck stops," Connolly added. "[McKinney] was certainly acting in the spirit we intended."

For his part, McKinney said he couldn't be the one to say whether other agencies ought to follow his lead.

"I think it was the right thing for DOT," McKinney said, adding, "It sure elevated the conversation."

About the Author

Zach Noble is a staff writer covering digital citizen services, workforce issues and a range of civilian federal agencies.

Before joining FCW in 2015, Noble served as assistant editor at the viral news site TheBlaze, where he wrote a mix of business, political and breaking news stories and managed weekend news coverage. He has also written for online and print publications including The Washington Free Beacon, The Santa Barbara News-Press, The Federalist and Washington Technology.

Noble is a graduate of Saint Vincent College, where he studied English, economics and mathematics.

Click here for previous articles by Noble, or connect with him on Twitter: @thezachnoble.


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