Federal Government

FITARA: Making Progress Through Shared Perspectives

As time goes by–in any industry–we learn what’s working and what’s not. Such is the case in federal IT as agencies work to comply with the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act. FITARA encourages agencies to take a close look at the IT they have in their organizations, thereby enabling them to see for themselves where there could be cost savings across multiple programs.

At FedScoop’s FedTalks, I sat down with Joyce Hunter, Deputy CIO for Policy and Planning, USDA; Richard McKinney, CIO, DOT; and Steve Cooper, CIO, Department of Commerce to discuss how these IT leaders are with meeting FITARA’s demands. For these FITARA front-runners, several themes emerged regarding the policy’s adoption, implementation, and congressional testimony.

  • FITARA isn’t just about driving down costs. It’s about improving service delivery.

For Hunter, FITARA is putting some real teeth into the IT acquisition process. The policy is exposing every aspect of acquisition for greater transparency for everyone involved. McKinney substantiated Hunter’s points, adding that the legislation isn’t just about lower costs. It’s about improving how IT services are delivered. While this procurement clarity could scare off some, it’s key that we keep the real goals in mind – innovating IT delivery with the best value for greater citizen service

  • Congress won’t let up on their demands, but they will be fair.

Having recently testified in front of Congress, McKinney and Cooper were ripe to discuss their agency report cards. For McKinney, DOT is a long way off from where it needs to be, but he is optimistic about the future because of the way Congress is responding to the difficult procurement issues FITARA is forcing agencies to confront. McKinney’s commitment to turning around his grades is certainly inspiring – he could have pushed for his Fs to be turned to Ds, but DOT is ready to face up to the realities of FITARA and make real, strategic improvements for their next review.

Similarly, during Cooper’s testimony, Commerce found that Congressman Gerry Connolly will be holding federal CIOs and their secretaries responsible for meeting FITARA standards. To respond to Congress’ demands, Commerce is implementing a Tiger Team to help them figure out where they are with their IT spending. Documenting what’s being purchased and where the agency is now with IT will serve as an as-is blueprint of sorts. Commerce could be a great example for other agencies facing tough report cards; their goals on establishing a baseline and developing IT spending plans and a measurement strategy before they have to face Congress again will be instrumental in better FITARA implementation.

  • C-Level enablement is key.

Everyone seemed to agree that input and buy-in from all C-level members within the agency are imperative for better FITARA practices. Cooper suggested that Congress is expecting that CIOs will do more than just sign off on IT buys. Now they will be fully involved in the process. More, at USDA, Hunter has sat down with all the CIOs and CXOs of USDA’s 29 component agencies to carefully explain the benefits of FITARA and why it needs to be implemented from the ground-floor and at all levels.

With better executive buy-in for FITARA and more involvement in the IT purchasing process, C-level federal employees are more equipped to look for cost-savings across their total agencies’ environments. They are the key to connecting traditionally disparate silos in government agencies.

  • Inter-agency collaboration is also required for more robust FITARA implementation.

While agencies may be bridging the gaps between their internal teams and resources, it’s time that we do the same across all government agencies and organizations. Hunter argued that in order for FITARA to really do its job across all of the federal government, collaboration among agencies will be needed. When one organization determines a step forward, they should be sharing that with the rest of the federal environment. FITARA won’t be successful or timely if it requires going through multiple repetitions of the same issues across several agencies. The key is to share and collaborate for greater success.

FITARA is a good first step towards driving a better, more responsive, more agile IT infrastructure for the U.S. government. But it’s just that–a first step. With better inter-agency collaboration, executive involvement, and closer work with Congress, we’ll be able to meet the demands of FITARA and help improve government for the citizens that we serve.

For more information, check out our FITARA Solution Playbook.

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