Report Card Season: Fourth Iteration of FITARA Scorecard Released

Published: June 13, 2017

Information TechnologyIT Reform

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released the fourth FITARA scorecard to assess agencies’ compliance with the 2014 law. Scores for a majority of agencies stayed the same while a handful of grades dropped.

The Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) provides the framework for agencies in managing federal information technology, specifically in areas of CIO authority, data center consolidation and measurements of success in IT projects. A scorecard for the 24 CFO agencies is released on a bi-annual basis as an assessment of the agencies’ adherence to the legislation. An overall “school letter” grade is given with various IT management categories scored. The third iteration of the scorecard added a + or – to the letter grade based on whether or not the CIO reported directly to the Secretary or Deputy Secretary of that respective department. The most recent scorecard is the fourth to be released by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

While the first three scorecards have shown improvements in grade changes, FITARA Scorecard 4.0 reveals a downward spiral in scores. It proves disappointing with 5 agencies earning lower grades, only 4 improving and 15 agencies remaining stalled.

Source: OGR

The Department of Defense is an agency that has dropped in grades and the only one to earn an “F” score. In fact, the agency earned an “F” in every category except Portfolio Review, in which it received a “D.” According to Rep. Will Hurd at the subcommittee hearing for the scorecard, this failing grade is due to the lack of transparency in IT spending by the DoD. The department has reclassified a significant percentage of IT spending as national security systems, which is not covered under FITARA. Committee members plan to follow up with the agency for the reasoning in this reporting.

By contrast, USAID made leaps and bounds in its score, earning the first overall agency grade of an “A.” According to Rep. Gerry Connolly, this increased score is largely based on USAID approaching the GAO for help in improving its FITARA score, listening to the recommendations provided and implementing them accordingly.

The following are other reflections from the scorecard:

  • HUD earned a higher grade due to improvements under agency CIO authority enhancements and an “A” under data center optimization.
  • DOI earned a lower grade despite improvements to agency CIO authority enhancements but faced setbacks in transparency and risk management as well as portfolio review.
  • DOL earned a lower grade primarily because it went from an “A” to “F” under agency CIO authority enhancements.
  • DOS earned a higher grade, primarily due to going from an “F” to “A” under CIO authority enhancements with improvements under the data center optimization initiative.
  • DOT earned a higher grade with an improved score under portfolio review.
  • OPM earned a lower grade due to decreased performance under transparency and risk management, despite improving under agency CIO authority enhancements.
  • SSA earned a lower grade primarily due to a failing score under transparency and risk management and decreased score under data center optimization initiative.

*Note – the most updated explanation for the graded categories on the FITARA scorecard from the OGR can be found here.

The current iteration of the scorecard contains a few additions. A reflection of whether the agency’s CIO is permanent or acting is new to this iteration. Moreover, an additional score (not rendered in the final grade) measures an agency’s compliance in software licensing per the MEGABYTE Act. As can be seen, with the exception of Education, GSA and USAID, all agencies received an “F” in the preview of this category. According to Hurd, “There is absolutely no excuse for agencies not to have an accurate inventory of the software licenses they have. This is basic IT management.” According to David Powner at the GAO, had the software licensing scores counted, it would have caused a total of 12 agency scores to decrease and only 3 agency scores to go up.

Additionally, two adjustments to the grading have been made. First, the calculation for the incremental development area was simplified in order to capture more incremental projects. Second, OMB data center optimization metrics have been incorporated under the data center category so that half the score is based on meeting optimization metrics and half based on data center savings – a move, Hurd stated, was done based on feedback from agencies. However, largely due to this change in calculation under data centers, a total of 10 agencies earned lower grades from the last scorecard.

Powner cited that an expansion of the calculations for this scorecard contribute to the overall decrease in agency performance and scoring. Additionally, he cites the transition in the administration as a contributing factor. At the subcommittee hearing, Rep. Kelly stated that another reason for the decreased performance is the possible effect of the administration’s hiring freeze and OMB’s directives for workforce reductions, causing a stall in hiring of tech-savvy employees to contribute to the success of FITARA.