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Federal CIO authority still falling short

Kenneth Corbin | March 31, 2017
It’s been more than two years in to the most ambitious overhaul of federal IT in almost 20 years, and many CIOs say they still lack authority over new acquisitions and aren't able to halt failing projects.

Moreover, the absence of a strong federal CIO does not help the cause of advancing FITARA implementation, she warned.

"Having a federal CIO in place is critical to ensuring that agencies are being provided the necessary guidance to improve in their management of IT investments," Kelly said.

In Powner's assessment, there is blame enough to go around. In addition to the questions of accountability for tech initiatives within agencies that are tied up with the inconsistent CIO authorities, Powner said that too many agencies continue to try to tackle IT projects through a "big-bang, waterfall approach," when agile and incremental development has proven a more effective and cost-efficient strategy.

Moreover, he noted that implementing the CIO and other provisions of FITARA cannot simply be left to the agencies alone, but that strong oversight from the White House and Capitol Hill can help prod those bureaucracies along.

"Recent history tells us that when OMB is involved with this oversight, progress occurs," Powner said. "It's also fair to say that we've taken some steps backwards on progress in these areas towards the end of the prior administration and with the recent change in administration. Congress needs to continue to push OMB to play this critical role."


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