Federal Acquisition Reform

The Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) was designed to address challenges in the way that the Federal Government acquires and manages almost $90 billion worth of technology assets. Among other improvements, the Act mandates steps toward effective governance in managing IT portfolios on both an agency-wide and intra-agency scale. Chief Information Officers (CIOs) are empowered with identifying risks, possible areas of duplication, cost saving opportunities and ensuring the use of Federal initiatives.

While FITARA highlights increased responsibility for CIOs, successful implementation requires full employee engagement. As policies and processes change to support FITARA, employee involvement and adoption of new practices will depend upon an understanding of the requirements and goals. These efforts will require collaboration and communication throughout the agency.

Many government employees remain unclear about what FITARA does, why it matters, and how it impacts them.

FITARA Highlights

FITARA is designed to empower leaders to review and approve IT budget requests, root out duplication, and build a modern, competitive IT program. There are seven requirement areas covered in FITARA, which include:

Greater authority for Government CIOs – Agency CIOs have IT budget approval authority and are to ensure the appropriate use of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) incremental development guidance.

Transparency and risk management of IT expenditures – Public release of IT investment information is required. IT investments are also required to be categorized by risk using current Capital Planning and Investment Control (CPIC) guidance. The CIO’s assessment of risk for major investments must be reported to the Federal IT Dashboard.

Portfolio review and management – Under the Act, an agency-wide IT investment portfolio review is required annually. Implementation guidance suggests using the PortfolioStat tool to conduct review sessions quarterly. The agency head will then annually certify PortfolioStat action items and forward to OMB.

Data center consolidation – Agencies provide OMB with data center consolidation strategy and quarterly updates.

Expanded training – Implementation guidance recommends training of specialized IT acquisition team members based upon Guidance for Specialized Information Technology Cadres.

Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative – Agencies must analyze IT purchases against available offerings in the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative.

Government software purchasing – General Services Administration (GSA) and OMB provide agencies access to enterprise software licensing agreements.

Implementing FITARA

Following FITARA’s passage, the OMB established implementation guidance. Agencies also received a FITARA implementation scorecard as a joint effort between the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Initial scorecards indicated numerous areas of performance gaps requiring attention by almost every agency.

Scorecard Improvements

Scorecards identified areas for improvement in four categories: data center consolidation, IT portfolio review savings, incremental development and risk assessment transparency.

To date, two scorecards have been issued within a 6-month timeframe. While much progress still needs to be made, seven agencies improved their overall scores.

Importance of Employee Education

In many ways, FITARA represents a new era of accountability, transparency and enhanced cybersecurity for IT. In order for agencies to comply, FITARA requires adjustments to current budgeting and acquisition processes.

Most conversations about FITARA focus on CIOs and the duties and authorities they have under the law. However, FITARA’s reforms will not succeed without buy-in from all employees. Communicating IT reform and its impact beyond the Office of the CIO is vital.

All government employees are IT users. These users want secure, cutting-edge technology. CIOs and agency leaders can help incentivize employee buy-in by educating employees about the importance of incremental development and better IT acquisition.