Executive Order Enhances CIO Authority and Supports FITARA

Published: May 17, 2018

Information TechnologyIT ReformPolicy and Legislation

On May 15th, President Trump issued an Executive Order (EO) to enhance the effectiveness of agency Chief Information Officers (CIOs).

The order strongly supports the tenants of the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA).

A summary of the EO’s provisions are listed below.

The EO aims to:

  • Empower agency CIOs to ensure that agency IT systems are secure, efficient, accessible, and effective, and that these systems enable agencies to accomplish their missions.
  • Modernize IT infrastructure within the executive branch and improve the delivery of digital services.
  • Improve the management, acquisition, and oversight of federal IT.

To emphasize CIO duties and responsibilities, the EO specifies that the CIO shall:

  • Report directly to the agency head
  • Serve as the primary strategic advisor to the agency head concerning the use of IT
  • Have a significant role as lead advisor in all IT planning, programming, budgeting, execution decisions, management, governance, and oversight processes.
  • Approve the appointment of any component CIO in that agency

To promote agency-wide IT consolidation, the EO states the head of each covered agency shall take actions to:

  • Eliminate unnecessary IT management functions
  • Merge or reorganize agency IT functions to promote agency-wide consolidation of IT infrastructure
  • Increase use of industry best practices, such as the shared use of IT solutions

To strengthen cybersecurity, the EO requires:

  • The CIO to implement appropriate risk management measures by working closely with senior executives with expertise in IT, security, budgeting, acquisition, law, privacy, and human resources
  • The agency to prioritize procurement of shared IT services

To increase the knowledge and skill standards for IT personnel, the EO requires:

  • The CIO to assess and advise the agency head regarding knowledge and skill standards established for agency IT personnel
  • The established knowledge and skill standards to be included in performance standards and reflected in performance evaluations of all component CIOs, and that the CIO is responsible for that portion of the evaluation
  • All component CIOs apply the standards within their component organizations

The EO specifies the CIO’s role in IT governance boards as follows:

  • The CIO shall be a member of any investment or related board of the agency with purview over IT, or any board responsible for setting agency-wide IT standards. 
  • The CIO shall be directed to chair any such board 
  • The CIO shall be a voting member of such board

The EO also strengthens the CIO’s hiring authorities:

  • Within 30 days of this order, OPM is directed to publish a proposed rule delegating to the head of each covered agency authority to determine whether there is a severe shortage of candidates or that a critical hiring need exists for IT positions.
  • If it is deemed such a need exists, OPM is directed to grant that agency direct hiring authority for IT positions withing 30 days.
  • The employees hired using this authority
    • may not be transferred to positions that are not IT positions
    • shall initially be given term appointments not to exceed 4 years
    • The terms of such employees may be extended up to 4 additional years at the discretion of the hiring agency

Provisions of the new order strongly support FITARA requirements calling for CIOs to report directly to the head of the agency, and granting CIOs authorities related to budget planning and the hiring of IT personnel.

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, Vice Ranking Member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, stated the following regarding the EO in a statement released by his office:

“This Executive Order builds on the foundation established in FITARA, addresses vacancies in federal IT sector that hinder agency IT efforts, and sets a path for better management of IT acquisition.“

Connelly went on to express his disappointment that DOD was not covered by FITARA or the EO, and he encouraged DOD leadership to look at FITARA and the EO, and use them as guidance for their own IT acquisition and management.