CIO visibility into agency IT spending is clouded, GAO finds

magnifying numbers 

Agency CIOs are supposed to have total visibility into IT spending under the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act, but in practice that's not always the case, potentially causing duplicative or poorly conceived IT contracts, according to a new study from the Government Accountability Office.

The lengthy and detailed Jan. 10 GAO report shows federal agencies consistently underreport or miss IT projects under the Office of Management and Budget's relatively recent FITARA guidance.

Agencies tracked for the study identified 78,249 IT-related contracts, to which those agencies obligated $14.7 billion in fiscal year 2016.

However, the GAO identified 31,493 additional contracts that generated $4.5 billion in obligations, which jacked up the total amount obligated to the selected IT contracts in fiscal year 2016 to at least $19.2 billion.

In addition to not identifying all IT contracts, 14 of the 22 selected agencies GAO monitored for the study didn't fully satisfy OMB's requirement for CIO review and approval of IT acquisition plans or strategies.  Only 11 of 96 randomly selected IT contracts across 10 agencies under evaluation were CIO-reviewed and approved as required by OMB's guidance.

FITARA rules laid out by Congress in 2014 were meant to help agencies keep better track of IT investments and their performance by having chief acquisition officers tag consequential IT contracts that would require CIO review and approval.

The new report from GAO indicates that there may be a disconnect between CAOs and CIOs.

GAO made almost 40 recommendations in the new report to ensure more coordination on IT buying, including making sure agency acquisition officers are involved in identifying IT and issue-related guidance and ensuring IT acquisitions are reviewed per OMB guidance.

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 or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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