Just weeks before the mid-August deadline for federal agencies to submit their actions plans explaining how they will comply with the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA), a new report found federal agencies are optimistic on FITARA’s ability to improve efficiency and eliminate wasteful spending.
Conducted by MeriTalk, a public-private partnership focused on improving the outcomes of government IT, FITARA from the Frontlines, found 84 percent of federal IT managers assert FITARA will improve Federal IT efficiency.
“Eighty-four percent FITARA approval rating is impressive,” said Richard Spires, CEO at Resilient Network Systems and former CIO at the Department of Homeland Security. “Not only does the legislation empower CIOs, but it also creates a ripple effect across the rest of agencies’ IT: improving government effectiveness, streamlining IT processes, and reducing waste. I applaud OMB’s aggressive community outreach initiatives. Federal CIOs need support to help drive real change.”
FITARA, enacted in December 2014, aims to improve the federal IT acquisition process by eliminating duplication and waste. A 2015 Government Accountability Office audit report identified dozens of areas where overlap and duplication of government missions exist. Eliminating that duplication could results in billions of dollars in potential savings.
FITARA has been touted as the most significant IT legislation since the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996, which established Federal Chief Information Officers (CIOs), but never achieved its full potential. The new law will increase the accountability and authority of the Chief Information Officer, and establish a “common baseline” that outlines the roles and responsibilities for agency CIOs and other senior agency officials.
The report indicates that an overwhelming 93 percent believe FITARA will be equally or more successful than its predecessor IT acquisition law, the Clinger-Cohen Act.
“I am encouraged by the strong level of support for FITARA among frontline Federal workers, who already see the potential for management efficiencies and program savings,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), ranking member of the House Oversight Subcommittee for Government Operations and coauthor of the FITARA legislation.
“While I commend the administration for its efforts to kick-start implementation, I am concerned by MeriTalk’s findings that portions of the federal workforce are still unfamiliar with the recently issued guidelines or actions underway within their own agencies,” Connolly said, adding, “I intend to make sure Congress diligently monitors implementation of FITARA by applying lessons learned from Clinger-Cohen. We will not accept unnecessary delays, improper half-measures, or the stubborn preservation of the status quo. Effective governance in the 21st century demands that we better leverage IT dollars to improve services for the public.”
Those you responded to the survey believe positive change is just around the corner, with 20 percent asserting FITARA will positively impact federal IT efficiency within the next six months, eight percent within the next seven to 12 months, and 30 percent within the next two years.
Specifically, the respondents believe FITARA will reduce duplicative IT systems, improve investment decisions, improve communication, and improve transparency. In addition, 84 percent of feds see the new CIO contract approval role as an opportunity to improve visibility and reduce redundancies. And, only six percent believe FITARA will increase CIO turnover.
“FITARA focuses upon enterprise-wide empowerment by ensuring that agency head CIOs have the tools and resources they need to make sound investment decisions across the 24 CFO Act agencies,” said Rich Beutel, principal, Cyrrus Analytics LLC. “As noted by former Department of Homeland Security CIO Richard Spires, by placing the agency chief information officer in a strategic role to coordinated enterprise-wide strategies, FITARA allows component CIOs to focus solely upon their mission, not whether the boss’ BlackBerry is running properly.”
Looking ahead, the respondents believe the biggest obstacles to FITARA implementation is failure to adequately become familiarized with FITARA guidelines, insufficient resources for implementing FITARA, and lack of a working group to implement the new requirements.
Although the deadline for submitting self-assessments to the Office of Management and Budget is fast approaching, only 18 percent of Feds believe their agencies will definitely meet the August 15 deadline – and only 19 percent believe their agencies will definitely meet the December 31 deadline.
“FITARA is all about CIO accountability to amp up Uncle Sam’s IT performance and efficiency,” said MeriTalk founder Steve O’Keeffe. “Folks on the frontlines dig the concept, but are concerned about being buried by the paperwork. MeriTalk is calling for a FITARA scorecard – and open discussion about implementation progress. Let’s embrace this opportunity to change the failing equation.”