Agencies closing the gaps in quest to reform IT

The House Oversight and Government Reform’s oversight hearing on the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act provided a treasure trove of tidbits about where agencies are heading over the next year.

This was the first oversight hearing since the Office of Management and Budget released its final policy in June.

In the four months since then, agencies have submitted and received feedback on their plans to meet the common baseline outlined in the final regulation. OMB expects agencies to finalize their plans to close the gaps between the common baseline and their current state of IT oversight, and post the document on a public website by Dec. 31.

Agencies have been working on meeting the requirements in FITARA really since President Barack Obama signed the bill into law about a year ago.

Aside from the first FITARA report card, the House hearing let some agencies highlight some of their progress so far:

  • Treasury Department With nine bureau chief information officers, including the IRS accounting for a majority of the department’s IT budget, Sonny Bhagowalia has been improving the oversight and governance process for the year or so he’s been the headquarters CIO. He told the committee that the Treasury CIO Council meets monthly to oversee the IT investment process with an emphasis on shared or enterprise services. In fact, Treasury lowered its spending on legacy systems, known as operations and maintenance, to 76 percent in 2014 from 81 percent in 2011. Treasury has reduced its project cycle time to delivering capabilities to less than 100 days in 2014 from more than 240 days in 2011.
  • Transportation Department — The challenge for DoT is similar to Treasury, with nine operating division CIOs, including its 800-pound gorilla in the Federal Aviation Administration, which not only accounts for a large majority of the IT budget, but also has a separate procurement process. Richard McKinney was the most outspoken supporter of FITARA, calling it the “last chance to get IT right.” McKinney said he plans on using FITARA to move 60-to-70 percent of commodity IT to shared or enterprise services. He said his goal is to manage commodity IT from a centralized approach, but leave mission-specific applications and systems to the component CIOs. Along those lines, McKinney said DoT plans to move services to the cloud over the next few years to further reduce its data centers. “By the February/March time frame, I’m going to move my entire messaging service up into the Microsoft 365 cloud, 400 terabytes of storage. We are going to make big moves and we also are going to start moving storage up there,” he said.
  • General Services Administration — The agency, in many ways, began its IT consolidation and integration effort long before FITARA was close to becoming law. GSA reduced its number of CIOs from 27 to one in large part because of former administrator Dan Tangherlini’s agency-wide restructuring effort in the aftermath of the Westerns Region conference scandal in 2012. Now CIO David Shive is moving the effort to the next phase. He said the increased visibility through better governance and oversight has helped decrease GSA’s IT budget by 17 percent between 2013 and 2015. A large part of that came from consolidating core data centers, which helped GSA save or avoid spending about $29 million over the last four years. Shive said GSA plans to close an additional 28 data centers and to move mission critical applications, such as the Integrated Award Environment Common Services platform to an enterprise-wide cloud platform. The one big difference between GSA, Treasury and Transportation is the funding mechanism. Shive said GSA has a working capital fund where it can retain savings and apply them to other projects. This concept of incentivizing agencies to save money and then keep some or all of it is one Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said needs to be more seriously looked at by Congress.

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