CIO EO Echoes and Amplifies FITARA

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The timing for the White House to release its new IT EO is–timely.

The EO, which picks up precisely on the priorities mapped in the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) of December 2014, comes out just over a week before the release of the sixth FITARA scorecard–planned for a May 23 Oversight and Government Reform IT Subcommittee hearing. Like FITARA, the new IT EO is all about empowering CIO authority over agencies’ IT acquisitions–and it requires that CIOs report directly to agency secretaries.

IT leaders in the administration buttressed the IT EO today.

“The true answer to modernizing government technology is to build the capacity to conduct change on an ongoing basis,” stated Jared Kushner, senior adviser to the president and head of the White House Office of American Innovation. “By ensuring that agency CIOs are empowered, today’s action by President Trump is a critical step forward in building that change management capacity.”

Suzette Kent, Federal CIO, chimed in on the modernization imperative. “President Trump understands CIOs have an important role at their agencies to drive results – and this executive order furthers their ability to be mission enablers in providing the quality service not only to their federal agency but to the American people.”

Hill IT leader Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., the co-author of FITARA, was also quick out of the blocks. In a show of bipartisan support, Connolly threw his weight behind the EO.

“I commend the Administration for taking action to ensure that federal agencies continue to implement the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) and institute good IT acquisition practices,” he said.

“This Executive Order builds on the foundation established in FITARA, addresses vacancies in the federal IT sector that hinder agency IT efforts, and sets a path for better management of IT acquisition,” he continued. “It is disappointing that the Department of Defense is not covered under this Executive Order as it is the one agency that consistently receives a failing grade on the FITARA scorecard. I urge the Department to take a good look at the Executive Order and FITARA as guidance of the Department’s own IT acquisition and management.”

All great stuff–but those in the know have questions. Where are the teeth in the IT EO’s jaw? Will the administration come up with carrots and sticks to get the change behavior? How will the EO play into the new Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act designed to fund upgrades to government IT’s geriatric IT infrastructure?

Like the Cyber EO, the IT EO stresses accountability. It will be interesting to see how the mechanics of that accountability play out–perhaps driving new focus on the FITARA scorecard as well as OMB’s IT Dashboard? Clearly, there’s scope for significant synergies with the new DHS CDM dashboard.

MeriTalk is working with Congressman Connolly, GAO, and the CIO Council on a new FITARA Awards program to recognize agencies that get better grades on their FITARA Scorecards next week. While many had discounted the relevance of FITARA, it seems that by echoing FITARA this new IT EO will amplify its market importance.

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