Congress

FITARA progress stalls on scorecard 4.0

Report Card 

After steady improvement on previous scorecards, agencies' progress on implementing the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act stalled on the fourth round.

For the first time, more agency grades declined than improved, while 15 agencies' grades remained neutral.

However, there were bright spots. Four agencies improved, including the U.S. Agency for International Development, which recorded the biggest jump in the history of the scorecard, leaping from a D-plus to an A-plus. USAID also has the distinction of securing the first-ever 'A' grade.

The Departments of Housing and Urban Development, State and Transportation each improved by a full letter grade.

The five declining agencies, which each dropped a full letter, were the Departments of Defense, Interior and Labor; the Office of Personnel Management; and the Social Security Administration.

At a June 13 House oversight hearing, Government Accountability Office Director of IT Management Issues Dave Powner attributed the general lack of improvement, “in part, to the transitioning administrations and also to the expansion of scoring methodology.”

Of the 24 agencies reviewed, eight rely on acting CIOs. Those acting-CIO agencies did not fare notably worse on the scorecard, but Powner said the lack of permanent CIOs across government is hurting agencies’ FITARA implementation, and that CIOs still lack complete visibility into IT spending.

"Agency CIOs and the federal CIO are critical to carrying out these high-level agendas," he said. "This lack of current leadership will negatively impact the progress we’re making on FITARA."

Although it was not included in this round of grades, Powner said it "is completely unacceptable" that only three agencies -- USAID, the Department of Education and the General Services Administration — have "complete inventories of their software licenses."

House Oversight IT Subcommittee Chairman Will Hurd (R-Texas) expressed frustration that many agencies lack a clear chain of command and that many CIOs still do not report directly to the agency head.

"This isn't complicated… This should be standard practice across the government," he said. "If agency heads are supposed to be responsible for the ultimate protection of the digital infrastructure, the person who has the authority to do that should be directly involved."

House Oversight Government Operations Subcommittee Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) threatened lagging agencies with appropriations consequences.

"If our ... CIOs don’t take it seriously, they will see other areas that potentially could be impacted because of their inaction," Meadows said.

The Department of Defense, which has consistently registered among the bottom of the pack, dropped from a D-plus to an F-plus. In the subcategories of the scorecard, DOD received a failing grade for its transparency and risk management, drawing the brunt of lawmakers' ire.

Powner explained that the failing transparency grade was due to the Pentagon's reclassification of $15 billion worth of IT spending as national security systems, a category exempt from FITARA review.

"To have $15 billion magically appear under that umbrella doesn’t seem right," he said. "DOD is the last organization in the world that should be exempt from FITARA. If any organization needs a private sector-type CIO, it’s DOD."

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter

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