Passage of the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) has attracted a great deal of attention in federal IT circles. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has released proposed FITARA guidance that many interpret as giving top CIOs more influence in budgetary and policy decisions.

Tony Scott, newly appointed federal CIO weighed in on FITARA in a recent FCW article. In Scott’s view, the main benefit of FITARA is not really about increasing the clout of CIOs, it’s acknowledging IT’s impact on virtually every organizational function:

“‘There’s nothing you can do, no business decision you can make that doesn’t have some huge technology implication or impact,’ Scott said at the May 1 CFO-CIO Summit hosted by the Association of Government Accountants and the Association for Federal Information Resource Management… ‘you can’t have traditional silos and walls,’ Scott said. ‘I tell my colleagues that this is a contact sport. You have to be involved, you have to be engaged.'”

Under the proposed OMB guidance, agencies will now be responsible for submitting plans for exactly how FITARA is being implemented through a so-called “Common Baseline” plan. The plan is to allow agencies to fine-tune the OMB interpretation of FITARA, allowing flexibility in the amount of involvement for CIOs in planning and decision-making. But the clear indication is that involvement will be increased.

The OBM guidance can be found here. Top agency CIOs could be for all intents and purposes in charge of hiring bureau IT leaders, whether they go by the CIO or some other title. CIOs will also have a leadership role in the ongoing evaluation of tech leaders, and are charged with compiling and publishing a list of CIOs throughout bureaus and components.

Scott deserves credit for pointing out that legislation and guidance alone won’t change organizational culture. FITARA is definitely a step in the right direction for more organized and rational decision-making in federal IT. But it’s up to top CIOs to demonstrate vision and leadership as they work to implement the new legislation and guidance.