FITARA set to pick up speed in 2016

Fixing IT

After receiving failing FITARA grades, many agency CIOs are using the law to make big changes and control their IT departments.

Just a few weeks past its first birthday, FITARA already is driving the federal agency IT bus.

The Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act has put federal CIOs firmly behind the steering wheel of their IT operations.  Now, said one expert who helped craft the rules, CIOs had better be paying attention to make sure they keep their implementation efforts on the road.

The law explicitly gives agency CIOs more power in planning and executing their IT plans. It enhances transparency and risk management for IT investments, mandates portfolio review, pushes federal data center consolidation, expands IT training and teaming, taps into the federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative program.

Agencies have been busy filing implementation and compliance plans for months.

As the New Year gets rolling, however, former House aide Rich Beutel, said the onus is now on agency CIOs to use their new management options to make the law truly effective.

They're starting out on a rough road. In November, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee issued a dismal FITARA Implementation Scorecard littered with failing grades. The GSA and the Department of Commerce got Bs, but most agencies earned a grade of D or F, and no agency merited an A.

Lawmakers behind the law, like Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said the grades weren't concerning, as long as agencies improve on them in the coming months.

Despite the miserable interim report, there are still many reasons to be confident that agencies will be able to meet year-end FITARA baseline requirements and updated r self-assessments by April 30.

Buetel, who as a Hill staffer was instrumental to FITARA and is now principal at Cyrrus Analytics, said there are signs the legislation is changing the culture of federal IT.

He pointed to Transportation Department CIO Richard McKinney's December memo freezing all IT spending for at least 90 days, or until the agency's component agencies give him complete spending plans so he – and they – can better manage spending and plan for the future. Department CTO Maria Roat backed the effort as well.

"That's a major step forward," said Beutel. "I hope it happens more and more." The freeze, he said, shows agency CIOs are not only just marking deadlines, but are using the law to make big changes and control their IT operations. That some are beginning to flex that new muscle is a very good sign that the new rules are getting traction where they supposed to, Beutel 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 [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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