FITARA Scorecard Needs Improvements, Agency CIOs Say

FITARA Report Card

(Illustration: Shutterstock)

Though FITARA scorecards provide important insights into IT modernization efforts, the current scorecard format needs improvements to accurately evaluate agency progress, according to agency CIOs speaking Thursday at an Association for Federal Information Resources Management event.

“I think that some of the scorecards are not normalized, and they are not representative of very complex, large agencies which have got a lot more progress going on. And I think I can just say some of these scorecards don’t really indicate the true progress that is being made,” said Sonny Bhagowalia, CIO at the Department of Treasury. “And I think it takes a while to get things done.”

USDA CIO Jonathan Alboum said, “FITARA itself doesn’t change the culture, but it set us up to begin certain things that change the way we think about IT.”

The Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act empowers CIOs to have direct involvement in their agency’s IT acquisitions, and requires the Government Accountability Office to release biannual scorecards on agency progress, which are then passed on to congressional committee.

Jonathan Alboum, CIO at the Department of Agriculture, explained that the size and organization of different agencies changes the way that those agencies accomplish FITARA requirements and how they are then evaluated. For example, agencies with federated IT departments across the agency should be evaluated differently from those with a centralized IT department.

“We’re all ranked there one after the other and it does not sort of break us out into meaningful categories,” said Alboum. “And I think if you’re going to compare–and I think people compare naturally as you look at a scorecard–it’s useful to class us in different ways.”

Alboum also said that the scorecards do not grade all aspects of FITARA, meaning that improvement in one area may not raise an agency’s score.

“There are elements of FITARA that aren’t on the scorecard today. Things like workforce,” Alboum said, adding that the scorecard still has good information on it.

Soraya Correa, chief procurement officer at the Department of Homeland Security, noted that agencies must also change the way they think about their workforce by removing silos around different positions and the way they are trained.

“If you really want to change the culture, you’ve got to change the way you train people,” Correa said, explaining that IT, procurement, and human resources personnel should all be receiving training about the jobs and objectives of each position.

According to Alboum, the law has started a culture change within his agency.

“FITARA itself doesn’t change the culture, but it set us up to begin certain things that, over time, change the way we think about IT, change the way we think about our different agencies and how they work,” said Alboum. “So I’m very pleased that we have this law on the books.”

Bhagowalia added that the law becomes far more useful when agencies aren’t just looking to satisfy compliance buzzwords, but are using FITARA as a transformation strategy.

“I think this is a journey,” said Bhagowalia. “This is not a sprint; it’s going to take a little time.”

Jessie Bur
About Jessie Bur

Jessie Bur is a Staff Reporter for MeriTalk covering Cybersecurity, FedRAMP, GSA, Congress, Treasury, DOJ, NIST and Cloud Computing.

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