Deputy Federal CIO Maria Roat, who began in her current position eight weeks ago after serving as CIO at the Small Business Administration (SBA) during the hectic initial upswing of the coronavirus pandemic, discussed the fast pace of modernization efforts at Federal agencies in recent months, and how critical funding is to keep those efforts going.

Appearing as a witness before the House Government Operations Subcommittee to discuss the tenth version of the FITARA Scorecard issued by the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Roat ticked off a long list of IT successes that agency CIOs were able to implement on short notice to meet the demands of the pandemic and remote work. Those include widespread deployment of scalable platforms, video collaboration services, and virtual desktops.

The best way to make sense of the multicolored scorecard – which grades major Federal agency performance across a variety of IT modernization and related policy categories – is to view the FITARA Dashboard, and watch MeriTalk’s FITARA video.

“CIOs were entrepreneurial, creative, and agile” in adjusting operations to meet pandemic needs, the Federal CIO said. “We must keep the momentum” going to create long-term and sustained digital transformation, she added.

Part of that equation is funding, and Roat endorsed agency-generated IT working capital funds and the Technology Modernization Fund as two good sources. She told Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., ranking member of the subcommittee, that IT working capital funds in particular are “critical to modernization” because they provide multi-year funding. “It’s the way you get out of technical debt and move the ball forward,” she said.

Subcommittee Chairman Connolly told Roat he was glad that the Trump administration had embraced telework for Federal employees, and hoped the administration would make a “robust” budget request to boost funding for TMF.

Responding to a question from Rep. Hice about numerous ways to judge risk in an IT portfolio – which the congressman said he found confusing – the Deputy Federal CIO said she would take a look at the matter to add clarity “so we are on the same page across the government.” Rep. Hice replied, “let’s try to move forward on that.”

Roat also told Rep. Hice that provisions of the 21st Century IDEA Act could be considered for standards to measure improved citizen service by Federal agencies as the subcommittee considers whether to adopt additional FITARA grading metrics. “I look forward to working with you and the committee on what are good metrics for that,” Roat told Rep. Hice, to which Rep. Connolly responded, “we will be glad to work with you on that.”

Roat also said that OMB is working with agencies to better understand supply chain risks to their systems. “We kicked if off, and that work is underway right now,” she said.

On the workforce development front, Roat said OMB will undertake another iteration of its cyber reskilling academy with a focus on data science, and had recently graduated two cohorts from a robotic process automation (RPA) skills program.

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John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.
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