FITARA Update and Way Forward

Published: April 06, 2016

Data CenterInformation TechnologyIT Reform

FITARA is about fixing CIO authorities, delivering modern solutions quickly, and efficient IT stated Dave Powner, Director of IT Issues at GAO, during a forum in Washington, DC last week sponsored by Meritalk.

Powner discussed the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s FITARA scorecard released in the fall of 2015.  Powner’s office assisted with the compilation and assignment of scores, which revealed much work left to be done to achieve the intent of the law.  Fourteen out of the 22 executive branch agencies covered by the act received an overall “D” grade and two received “F”s. 

Powner stated, “The important thing about the grades is that there are pockets of success.”  Commerce and GSA both received a “B” overall and there were a smattering of “A”s given for certain grading areas.  For example, Commerce, Homeland Security, Justice and NSF all received “A”s in the area of data center consolidation.  VA, EPA, GSA and NRC received “A”s for incremental development. 

Powner said that the intent of grades was as follows: 

  • Measurable 
  • Tied to major sections of the law 
  • Drove appropriate behavior 
  • Improved transparency 
  • Recognized going small 
  • Focused on saving money

Powner stated that some have complained that the data was old.  Grades were based off the ITDashboard and quarterly reports to Congress.  The data used for the grades should be current, because agencies are tasked with keeping these resources up to date. Powner said, “The data is only old if the agency hasn’t been updating their dashboard.” 

Going forward Congress is considering several grading and/or metric changes: 

  • There is some discussion of awarding better grades to agencies with good FITARA implementation plans.  
  • GAO is considering some level of non-self-reported data for grading next iteration.  The first scorecard was compiled using self-reported data from the ITDashboard. Questions have been raised in regards to the accuracy of the data. 
  • Consideration is also being given to awarding higher grades to agencies achieving data center consolidation/optimization success. 

FITARA is having a positive effect on agency IT from the feedback Powner is receiving from CIOs.  CIOs have greater visibility into IT budgets and contracting.  For example, they can now more easily spot duplicative IT contracting efforts.  Additionally, CIOs are now certifying incremental development.

But conversely, Powner is observing negative impacts from FITARA: 

  • In some cases, bureau CIOs are not cooperating with agency CIOs 
  • Some CFOs are concerned about losing power 
  • In some instances, CIOs are being pressured to sign on FITARA plans they don’t agree with  
  • Some CIOs are seeing FITARA as a compliance exercise

Powner wrapped up his discussion by saying that “fixing CIO authority will take time.”  He also believes the federal government needs stronger CIOs and stronger leaders across the board, and FITARA implementation will not go well without consistent Congressional oversight and hearings moving forward.