A new version of an agency scorecard tracking IT modernization progress unveiled Thursday featured tweaked and new metrics, including one for cloud computing that caused an anticipated falter in agency grades.
The latest round of grading awarded one A, 10 Bs, 10 Cs, and three Ds to federal agencies, Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., announced at a roundtable discussion on Capitol Hill. While the grades were generally a decline from the last iteration of the scorecard, Connolly said that starting at a “lower base” was expected with the addition of a new category. “The object here is to move up.”
Carol Harris, director of the Government Accountability Office’s IT and Cybersecurity team, who was also at the roundtable, similarly attributed the decline to the cloud category.
“A large part of this decrease in the grades was driven by the cloud computing category, because it is brand new, and it’s something that we’ve not had a focus on relative to the scorecard,” Harris said.
The FITARA scorecard is a measure of agency progress in meeting requirements of the 2024 Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act that has over time added other technology priorities for agencies. In addition to cloud, the new scorecard also changed existing metrics related to a 2017 law, added a new category grading IT risk assessment progress, and installed a progress tracker.
“I think it’s important the scorecard be a dynamic scorecard,” Connolly said in an interview with FedScoop after the roundtable. He added: “The goal isn’t, let’s have brand new, shiny IT. It’s to make sure that our functions and operations are better serving the American people and that they’re protected.”
Harris also underscored the accomplishments of the scorecard, citing $4.7 billion in savings as a result of closing roughly 4,000 data centers and $27.2 billion in savings as the result of eliminating duplicative systems across government.
“So, tremendous accomplishments all coming out of FITARA and the implementation of FITARA,” she said.
The Thursday roundtable featured agency representatives from the Office of Personnel Management, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the U.S. Agency for International Development. USAID was the only agency to get an A.
Among the changes, the new scorecard updated the existing category for Modernizing Government Technology to reflect whether agencies have an account dedicated to IT that “satisfies the spirit of” the Modernizing Government Technology Act, which became law in 2017.
Under that metric, each agency must have a dedicated funding stream for government IT that’s controlled by the CIO and provides at least three years of flexible spending, Connolly said at the roundtable.
The transparency and risk management category has also evolved into a new CIO investment evaluation category, Connolly said in written remarks ahead of the roundtable. That category will grade how recently each agency’s IT Dashboard “CIO Evaluation History” data feed reflects new risk assessments for major IT investments, he said.
The 17th scorecard also added a progress tracker, which Connolly said Democrats on the House Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Information Technology, and Government Innovation worked on with the GAO to create. Connolly is the ranking member of that subcommittee.
“This section will provide transparency into metrics that aren’t being regularly updated or do not lend themselves to grading across agencies,” Connolly said, adding the data “still merits congressional attention, and we want to capture it with this tool.”
The progress tracker also allows stakeholders to keep tabs on categories the subcommittee has retired for the scorecard.
The release of a new scorecard has in the past been a hearing, but Connolly indicated the Republican majority declined to take the issue up.
At the start of the meeting, Connolly said he was “disappointed” that “some of the Republican majority had turned their backs on FITARA.” He later noted that by “the difference of two votes, this would be called a hearing instead of a meeting.”
FITARA scorecard grades in September were also announced with a roundtable and not a hearing.
“FITARA is a law concerning federal IT management and acquisition,” a House Committee on Oversight and Accountability spokesperson said in a statement to FedScoop. South Carolina Republican Rep. Nancy Mace’s “subcommittee has held a dozen hearings in the past year concerning not only federal information technology management and acquisition, but also pressing issues surrounding artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity. These hearings have been a critical vehicle for substantive oversight and the development of significant legislation.”
This story was updated Feb. 2, 2024, with comments from a House Committee on Oversight and Accountability spokesperson.