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Federal CIOs embrace IT reform, but struggle to move forward

Kenneth Corbin | Aug. 17, 2015
A new survey finds strong support for the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act, but an alarming number of CIOs are not prepared to act on its mandate.

A common refrain heard in federal IT circles is the admonishment against trying to "boil the ocean." That amounts to an appeal to take large, sweeping calls for reform like FITARA and break them down into smaller, more manageable pieces, and act on them iteratively.

In a statement, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), one of the authors of FITARA, praises the administration's "efforts to kick-start implementation," but says the low levels of awareness among agency executives about OMB's guidance are a cause for concern.

"I intend to make sure Congress diligently monitors implementation of FITARA by applying lessons learned from Clinger-Cohen," Connolly says. "We will not accept unnecessary delays, improper half-measures, or the stubborn preservation of the status quo."

O'Keeffe suggests that the administration approach FITARA as a government-wide priority, urging OMB to more actively engage with agencies to help steer implementation. OMB's guidance and deadlines might be a fine start, but O'Keeffe calls for a more hands-on approach that would see the administration develop a method for tracking agencies' progress -- step by step -- and calling attention to early successes.

"If everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority," he says. "For FITARA to get traction, OMB needs to clearly communicate the how and why. OMB needs to continue to double down on outreach and education. We need carrots and sticks -- and to establish a scorecard. We need to promote agencies that do a good job -- and significantly to showcase how those agencies have delivered value to their mission owners."


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