Realizing FITARA's Full Potential

Special by Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va.

When I meet with federal IT stakeholders from government agencies and industry, I am constantly reminded why previous reform efforts have failed to meet their potentialthe lack of a robust implementation plan and congressional oversight. The Federal Information Technology Acquisition and Reform Act is a transformative tool to modernize the federal government and realize new efficiencies and savings. That is why we must get the implementation right. 

As vice ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the ranking member of the Government Operations Subcommittee, I have worked closely with the Office of Management and Budget and Government Accountability Office to conduct oversight of how federal agencies are implementing FITARA. In each of the last four years, the Government Operations Subcommittee has partnered with GAO to issue a FITARA Scorecard, a useful tool that helps track agency progress on various provisions, including chief information officer authority enhancements, portfolio review, enhanced transparency and improved risk management, and the federal data center optimization initiative.

During this oversight process, we have found there are areas of FITARA that need an extension of their original sunset date. These areas include the provisions on federal data center consolidation, transparency and risk management of major IT systems (IT Dashboard), and IT portfolio, program, and resource reviews (PortfolioStat).

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So last month, I joined my FITARA coauthor Congressman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., in introducing the FITARA Extension Act. Our legislation will give agencies flexibility and additional time to meet the overarching goals of our IT modernization legislation. Identical legislation was also included in the National Defense Authorization Act that passed the House in July.

Very simply, the federal data center problem is bigger than we initially thought. In 2009, when federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra directed agencies to determine how many data centers they had and begin to consolidate those centers, the government estimated there were roughly 1,100 data centers. That figure quickly grew to 11,700 by 2015.

Twenty-three agencies have reported roughly $656 million collectively in planned savings for fiscal years 2016 through 2018. This is $3.3 billion less than the estimated $4.0 billion in planned savings for fiscal years 2016 through 2018 agencies reported to GAO in November 2015.

Additionally, four agenciesthe departments of Agriculture, Defense, Interior and Treasuryaccounted for 84 percent of the completed closures. For those agencies not doing the planning and work required under FITARA and OMB guidance to consolidate or close their data centers, Congress needs to let them know they are not going to be able to run out the clock. We would be leaving money on the table if we were to allow FITARA’s data center reporting and planning requirements to expire in 2018. A limited extension of the data center provisions of FITARA, as provided by the FITARA Extension Act, will help us do that.

The IT Dashboard and PortfolioStat provisions of FITARA have allowed OMB to evaluate the efficiencies and risk of IT investments and would benefit from a permanent extension of the current Dec. 1, 2019 sunset. These are valuable oversight tools, and we should continue to use them to reform federal IT procurement.

The federal government spends nearly $100 billion each year on IT. We have a responsibility to ensure these investments are efficient, effective and in the best interest of the taxpayer. The successful implementation of FITARA will help us fulfill that responsibility.

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