CIO Council Releases State of Federal IT Report
Published: February 02, 2017
The CIO Council releases report on the current status Federal IT and how to continue improving it.
Right before the new administration was sworn in, the CIO Council (CIOC) publicly released a report on the current state of Federal IT and outlined steps on how to improve it moving forward. The council was formed in 2002 and is made up of an interagency forum of CIO’s to strengthen and drive the efficiency and collaboration of technology across the entire government spectrum through the development and implementation of IT policy.
The State of Federal Information Technology (SOFIT) Report was released on January 19, 2017 and goes into detail on the history, changes, and policies that have taken place surrounding technology in the government.
Citing a budget in FY2017 of $80 billion for IT across the federal space, the report suggests that successful change in IT will only come with a decrease in legacy technology and an increase in transparent and open data through “better internal collaboration, improvements to human resources and procurement operations.”
Specifically, the report greatly describes the role of the CIO and how the position must be fully entwined in all aspects of an agency’s IT investments in order to tackle consistent challenges within the government. When a CIO is intricately involved with an agency’s IT structure and reports directly to the Secretary or Deputy Secretary of that agency it is then, the reports finds, that they are able to analyze government-wide solutions, tools, and technologies to better fulfill the IT needs for that agency.
As a parting message, the report lists the following goals that the next Federal CIO will need to prioritize:
- Ensuring the highest value in IT investments;
- Expanding and improving digital services;
- Emphasizing cybersecurity for Federal IT assets and information;
- Training and developing the IT workforce
Describing that the last decade has seen “a total of 188 statutes, executive orders, presidential directives, and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) memoranda, circulars, strategies, and guidance,” the rest of the report zooms in on the analysis and impacts of six central policies in IT. A brief summary of each of those policies and their respective statuses, challenges and key findings are provided below.
Management and Oversight of IT
With almost half (43%) of the Federal IT projects that are reported on the IT Dashboard labeled as over budget or behind schedule, the management and oversight of IT continues to be a large challenge in the government sector. Over the years, initiatives such as reporting to the Federal IT Dashboard, Techstat and PortfolioStat as well as answering to the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) have strengthened the visibility and monitoring of IT projects. However, due to instances such as inefficient reporting, the inability for an agency’s operations to align with government-wide reporting and a common struggle to fully implement federal-wide policies, all of these contribute to the lagging progress within this policy area. Again, the report suggests that the authority of the CIO must be more involved and consistent among all the agencies. A partnership with the CIOs and their counterparts at both the agency and bureau levels to fully involve all members of the executive suite of that agency must be established. Moreover, further acceptance and the meeting of guidelines such as FITARA must be achieved.
IT Infrastructure Modernization
The report estimates that approximately $34.7 billion was spent in FY2016 on IT infrastructure and continues to grow year-to-year, primarily due to care needed for outdated and obsolete systems. Policies such as the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative, Cloud First, FITARA, and the IT Infrastructure Optimization Line of Business have tried to focus in on this area. Despite these efforts, aging infrastructure continues to hold agencies back and ties up precious IT dollars that can be used for modernization. A modern IT infrastructure is key to resolving and strengthening other key areas of IT such as cybersecurity. The report found that infrastructure does not get the attention it needs until it fails and that current approaches to modernizing IT does not align with agency processes. Currently, there is no policy in place that allows agencies to redirect operations and maintenance funding to update critical IT systems.
Open Data and Open Government
It is no secret that the federal government creates and collects a large variety of data. In fact, approximately 185,000 data sets have been reported to Data.gov. However, challenges in sufficient resources, conflicting policies and balancing priorities continue to hinder open data and open government. The Obama administration zeroed in on the issue of open data by signing the Transparency and the Open Government Directive, establishing Data.gov and the IT Dashboard, passing the Digital Government Strategy and instituting the Open Data Policy and Open Data Action Plan and CAP Goals. Streamlining the range of stakeholders that carry out open data initiatives and effective management of government resources will greatly increase the efficiency in operations and services and reduce costs in promoting data that is accessible and usable by the public.
Federal Shared Services
The report shows staggering savings of the use in shared services - $21 billion to $47.2 billion could be saved between 2015 and 2025 and thereafter, a total savings of $47 billion is estimated per year. Shared government services are essential to aligning government resources to better provide quality, quantity and cost effective services to customers. However, according to the report, the breadth and width of the government is enormous with 300 executive branch organizations alone and over 10,000 IT systems. Irregular and (ironically) inconsistent agency adoptions of shared services due to concerns about the providers as well as an uneven scale of offerings are just some of the challenges plaguing the shared services arena. Among others, policies such as the Lines of Business, Inter-Agency Commodity IT Services, Shared-First, and Unified Shared Services Management have attempted to increase the use of federal shared services. Much work is still left to be done and finding a way where shared services will decrease agency risk and burden, making it easier to transfer funds between agencies and increasing the accountability for shared services adoptions are just some of the ways the report finds could help in this space.
The need for the protection of information and systems is ever-growing. The government realizes this with a 35 percent increase to $19 billion in cybersecurity funds from FY2016 to FY2017. Since 2009, there have been four primary policy initiatives to address the issue of cybersecurity: 2009 Cyberspace Policy Review, 2015 Cybersecurity Sprint, 2015 Cybersecurity Strategy and Implementation Plan and 2016 Cybersecurity National Action Plan. The reports finds that six key components must come together and be successful for the full security of the federal government: managing cybersecurity throughout the enterprise; understanding data assets and threats, building the Federal cyber workforce and budget processes; promoting the use of standardized, centralized IT; securing the network; and securing authentication and authorization. The report found that better procurement processes are needed to adapt to the evolving world of cyber as well as an expanded and knowledgeable cyber workforce within the government. Moreover, streamlined and centralized reporting across the government and the continuing the engagement between OMB and agency leadership and CIOs to achieve agency cyber objectives are needed.
Acquisition and Contracts Management
The report cites that one out of every six dollars of federal government spending goes to contractors, thus effectively improving the process of acquisition is important. As it stands, the government procurement process is slow and complex and lends to poor and ineffective planning and management due to complicated acquisition requirements. Policies that have been put in place to aid in the simplification and streamlining of procurement include the Buying as an Enterprise initiatives as well as Acquisition Training and Certification, Awareness and Outreach and FITARA. The report found that existing flexibilities in procurement are underutilized as there is a lack of awareness of them by those in procurement. Additionally, more experience in IT is needed by employees in acquisition dealing with large, complex requirements. Furthermore, delays and uncertainty in the procurement process, complexity of the appropriations process and restriction of access to vendors contribute to the woes of government procurement. The report found that there must be agency incentives for agile and innovative IT development and purchasing practices as well as strengthened and knowledgeable acquisition teams.