The first report cards measuring how well agencies are meeting their FITARA requirements was released this week and the results were not very good. According to House Oversight and Government Reform Committee the GSA and the Department of Commerce are ahead of the curve, receiving a grade of B, but most agencies earned a grade of D, no agency merited an A. Despite the dismal interim report, there are still many reasons to be confident that agencies will be able to meet FITARA requirements both for the next deadline on December 31st and as they update their self-assessments in April 2016.
This cautious optimism was the foundation of commentary by agency CIOs shared at the latest AFEI FITARA Implementation symposium held on October 22nd at the Army Navy Country Club in Arlington, VA. The three part series is one of the many confidence building measures that are in place to help agency CIOs overcome the hurdles in their way on the road to compliance. The tone set by federal CIO, Tony Scott, is one of partnership, based on the understanding that the challenges CIOs face requires a cultural-level change and that this may be the best chance for improving how agencies manage IT procurement and spend. As Department of Transportation CIO Richard McKinney stated, “IT is a team sport,” that requires all to navigate with a common playbook and set of clear objectives. McKinney added, “I’m an optimistic guy who takes the approach, ‘don’t you want to do better?’”
To not take this approach would likely ensure that FITARA will be treated like so many other federal mandates where key personnel wonder if they take their time and wait for turnover in the CIO Corps, that they’ll be able to wait out the need to meet the requirements.
However, as McKinney pointed out, agencies are “are dying of a thousand paper cuts” under the current planning and procurement systems. And while he faces the typical challenges he plans to leverage the authority conveyed to him as CIO under FITARA to begin to “get the house in order.” This spirit of boldness and partnership was echoed by Joyce Hunter, USDA Deputy CIO for Policy and Planning who began her talk acknowledging that “we will boldly go where CIOS have never gone before.” The applause confirmed that attendees agreed that this is a meaningful and overdue pivot point for government IT professionals. Ms. Hunter was firm in her commitment that she and her CIO cohort are “resolved to make FITARA more than another reporting exercise.”
It is this vocal and public commitment from the CIO Corps that is encouraging for the agencies and committees responsible for the effectiveness of the mandate. At the House Oversight hearings, F. David Powner, director of information technology at the Government Accountability Office shared that while “Treasury and Transportation got Fs…we feel better about their Fs because they have high goals.” Moreover, because of the schedule of interim goals and the level of executive support, both at public events and behind closed doors, the CIOs at the event , including Ms. Hunter, Mr. McKinney, and USDA Acting Associate CIO, Flip Anderson, were confident they will meet all deadlines between now and April 2016.