2016 is the year to embrace FITARA
As this year comes to a close, we reflect on another year of data breaches and IT inefficiency. 2015 is also the when we finally started to see implementation of the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act start to get into gear. The Act, which really started to gain traction after the disastrous launch of Healthcare.gov, as NPR's All Tech Considered identified, is going to be the hottest topic in federal IT in 2016.
Bad report cards
"More than twice as many agencies got a D or lower instead of a B or C. Nobody got an A."
Early predictions for new year, such as those from Federal Computer Week, seem to indicate that it's going to be the year that FITARA really starts to ramp up. However,this year's FITARA Implementation Scorecard from the House Oversight Committee, evaluating each agency's progress on implementing the act, was dismal, with more than twice as many agencies getting a D or lower as those receiving a B or C combined. Nobody got an A.
As FCW noted, it's not a complete disaster – FITARA has only been around for a short time – as long as agencies plan to better implement its provisions. In the upcoming year, FITARA is set to vitalize the IT culture of the federal government.
Great power, great responsibility
FITARA primarily deals with rehabilitating the IT services of federal agencies, namely by putting more power into the hands of agency CIOs, and establishing them where they don't exist. It gives them the authority over the budgets and planning for IT spending. It provides agencies with an avenue to invest in cloud integration. It's a big step toward putting IT strategy at the heart of agency operations.
With this increase in authority comes increased accountability. CIOs are to be consolidated to single positions within agencies, and are expected to report directly to agency leaders. CIOs are now expected to have a handle on all of the IT investments in an agency.
"Accountability is a blessing in disguise. More responsible CIOs will lead to better IT policy."
But that accountability is a blessing in disguise. More responsible CIOs will lead to better IT policy. A single information officer will help with the haphazard implementation of IT strategy across agencies. FITARA is a good step forward in untangling the rat's nest of federal IT standards. The Act also aims to increase IT efficiency and emphasizes planning and development of IT strategy and mandates that agencies eliminate redundancy and overlap in IT programs
Of course, the changes in FITARA aren't just for show. They can make an agency more efficient by giving CIOs more control over the IT process and helping them implement best practices developed in the private sector. IT has seen enormous leaps and bounds in the past twenty years since the Clinger-Cohen Act that the government simply hasn't been able to benefit from.
FITARA helps ensure that CIOs will be able to put those practices into place. Federal IT groups should start getting their technology investments in order if they haven't already to comply with regulations.