Agency CIOs try to gaze into FITARA’s crystal ball
The Office of Management and Budget may not yet have released its guidance for the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act, but that doesn’t mean agency chief information officers aren’t gearing up for what lies ahead.
Acting Agriculture Department CIO Joyce Hunter and Housing and Urban Development Deputy CIO Kevin Cooke outlined ways their agencies plan to adapt to FITARA once OMB issues its formal outline later this year.
FITARA would build on the success of the Federal CIO Council, an interagency group working to move away from the government’s currently stovepiped IT systems by encouraging CIOs to collaborate, Hunter said.
“In the last two years, we have been able to foster a really good conversation between us on what’s going on,” Hunter said Monday at the Government Information Technology Executive Council Summit in Baltimore. “We are able to be a little bit more proactive than we have been in the past because we have a CIO Council that gets together and talks about the kinds of things that we’re doing.”
On top of the collaboration across the government, FITARA will also open up lines of dialogue among officials who will ultimately help their agencies align cost with mission, Hunter said.
“It forces a conversation between the deputy secretaries of the agencies and the CIOs, CFOs and CPOs,” she said. “It makes us get out of the office and have a fruitful conversation on where we are going from an IT perspective.”
Cooke said FITARA will help agencies better understand where they can use shared services, pointing to his agency’s decision to move to the Treasury Department’s financial management service as an example.
“This act will force us to be tighter tech consultants to the businesses,” Cooke said.
FITARA’s key selling point seems to be its power to encourage collaboration — a “very powerful mechanism,” federal CIO Tony Scott has said.
“It’s a collaboration across a number of different elements that’s going to get us where we need to go with this … one enables and empowers the other and vice versa,” Scott said in March.
As far as FITARA’s downside, Hunter and Cooke hope the rules don’t become restrictive to the point that CIOs primarily become administrative gatekeepers.
“I’ll be very honest with you: I hate paperwork,” Hunter said. “I run from paperwork. I am not an administrative hag. I’m not going to sit behind my desk signing purchase orders.”
Any new regulation is likely to cause some headaches, but Hunter believes FITARA needs to give CIOs the right amount of power for agencies — and the federal government as a whole — to fulfill its missions.
“We can’t have this finger pointing going back and forth,” she said. “We are losing ground globally as a leader in technology. The only way we can do is this is if we are all talking.