The Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act – FITARA – has been very much in the news lately. Key provisions that would have been sunsetted by the original 2014 legislation have been extended, and many in government IT circles say even more needs to be done.
Earlier this month the House of Representatives voted unanimously to pass the FITARA Enhancement Act, which extended critical data reporting and data center consolidation requirements in the legislation. The FITARA IT Dashboard requires federal agencies to make detailed information on federal IT investments publicly available, while also categorizing those investments based on risk.
The Data Center Consolidation Initiative (DCCI) requires agencies to provide OMB with a data center inventory and a detailed strategy for consolidating data centers. Oversight and Government Reform Committee member Rep. Gerry Connolly was quoted by Federal Times:
“Passage of the FITARA Enhancement Act sends a message to agencies that Congress is committed to the successful implementation and oversight of FITARA, and agencies will not be allowed to run out the clock on FITARA’s strict data center consolidation and reporting requirements,” he said on the House floor.
It’s good that Congress is showing this kind of leadership, because the IT efficiency improvements FITARA is designed to foster are still very much required. According to a recent article in NextGov, the latest FITARA scorecard showed declining grades for most federal agencies. Specifically in the area of software licensing, 21 of 24 agencies received an “F” rating:
“And this metric is about more than just checking a box. An Office of Management and Budget report found that federal agencies spend almost $9 billion on software through over 42,000 transactions, leading to unnecessary purchases and ultimately wasted taxpayer dollars. In a time of fiscal uncertainty and evolving regulations, it is critical for agencies to improve their approach to software acquisition and management.”
The article goes on to say that one effective step CIOs can take is to make more use of enterprise software license agreements. Doing so streamlines the procurement process and leverages the buying power of the entire organization. However, this often goes against the status quo, since internal departments and offices have traditionally had great discretion in making such decision. Once again, improvements in federal IT have just as much to do with culture as they do with technology.
Of course, legislation and guidance alone won’t change organizational culture. FITARA is a major step towards more organized and rational decision-making in federal IT. Now it’s up to federal CIOs to demonstrate vision and leadership as they continue to implement FITARA and the expanded authority it gives them.
Thankfully, the new legislation extending FITARA provisions gives them that opportunity. The next FITARA scorecard is scheduled to be released in December. Congress – and hopefully taxpayers – will be looking for continued progress.