Lawmakers look to GAO for answers on IT acquisition

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah).

Rep. Jason Chaffetz is leading an effort to get watchdog reports on FITARA implementation and digital services team efforts.

Congressional overseers want the Government Accountability Office to take a close look at IT acquisition issues, ranging from CIOs' control over budgets to the way the U.S. Digital Service prioritizes the projects it tackles.

In a pair of June 21 letters to U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee made nine specific requests for study.

The letters state that the requests stem from GAO's decision to add IT acquisition to its biennial High Risk List in 2015 and by the Office of Management and Budget's reporting on high-priority programs.

Among other things, lawmakers want GAO to analyze how USDS works with agency CIOs to prioritize projects, review how USDS uses OMB's list of high-priority IT programs and examine the broader reporting and oversight associated with OMB's list.

Those lines of inquiry echo issues raised during the committee's USDS hearing earlier this month.

The letters also ask GAO to assess the implementation of the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act.

Lawmakers want to know how CIO authorities have been established in response to FITARA, including whether CIOs report to the secretary or deputy secretary at all 24 agencies governed by the Chief Financial Officers Act, whether CIOs are certifying incremental development for IT investments and how CIOs are approving agency IT budgets.

In addition to Chaffetz, the letters are signed by committee Ranking Member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Government Operation Subcommittee chairman and ranking member Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), and IT Subcommittee leaders Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.).

"I continue to be encouraged by the enthusiasm among the CIOs and the rank-and-file for what we're trying to do here," Connolly told FCW in an email. "We're elevating IT management from being an afterthought to part of the core mission for agencies. I routinely hear from CIOs about how this has empowered them to implement some long-overdue reforms."

Connolly, a co-sponsor of FITARA, added, "We've got to make better use of federal IT dollars. We have to ensure the hardware and software we purchase is efficient and secure, and we also have to start retiring the costly legacy systems so we can free up dollars for new IT investments."

But getting a firm handle on agency spending has been a long road for many CIOs.

The letters also ask GAO to take another look at data center consolidation.

This article was updated June 22 to include comment from Rep. Connolly.

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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