The Situation Report: CIO Power Struggles & Data Center Disasters

cio spoof

FITARA Fault Lines

My Capitol Hill listening post has picked up several encrypted messages from the Government Accountability Office suggesting that the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act may be widening some major fault lines across government. While the law was designed to strengthen the role of the chief information officer, the Situation Report has picked up signals that some agency CIOs continue to be bulldozed by their CxO counterparts.

CFOs eat CIOs for lunch,” according to one open-source report.

“CIOs are being pressured to sign off on FITARA plans they don’t agree with,” said Dave Powner, Director of IT Issues at the GAO. “We need stronger CIOs across the board.”

Meanwhile, the fainthearted have retreated to the relative safety of complaining that FITARA is yet another compliance exercise designed to be an innovation speed bump. Indicators are strong that the old compliance checklist mantra isn’t going to work in this case. What is working, say insiders, is the slow but steady culling of feckless leaders.

There may be another, less treacherous, route to FITARA success—giving agencies the resources they need to remain in compliance with the law. Strong signals coming from the Agriculture Department indicate that FITARA done correctly required seven full-time employees and $3 million-plus during the first year. Since new funding wasn’t in the cards, USDA reverted to volunteers.

Get Ready For Agency Self-Assessments

Not. Remember those FITARA Self-Assessments that agencies were supposed to send to the Office of Management and Budget by April? Well, most of them are in, but my OMB listening post has picked up solid evidence that the White House has no plans to make those assessments public.

Data Center Disasters

data centersThe Federal government continues to make progress in its effort to close data centers. The Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI) has spearheaded the closure of 3,125 of the 10,584 data centers that we know about. But leave it to OMB to redefine what a data center actually is and this is what you get: the very real possibility that the 10,584 data centers we currently know about could increase.

“We are nowhere close to optimizing our data centers,” according to Powner, who plans to release a status report in late May.

Congress also has plans to take a hard look at the government’s legacy system closure rate. My Capitol Hill remote outpost reports that most agencies have no plans for the millions of lines of old code still in existence. “Far less than half of those old systems have a plan for replacement,” according to one Hill watcher.

Cyber ISR Boost

Thanks to the Federation of American Scientists, the Situation Report got its hands on a heavily redacted copy of the Fiscal 2016 Congressional Budget Justification Book for the Military Intelligence Program. The 178-page document contains a few nuggets of back channel intelligence worth noting.

The Air Force National Guard is realigning up to 258 personnel to stand up a Cyber Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Group in Massachusetts, and another 89 members to stand up a similar squadron in California. Total cost: $19 million.

Dan Verton
About Dan Verton
MeriTalk Executive Editor Dan Verton is a veteran journalist and winner of the First Place Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award for Best News Reporting -- the highest award in the nation for business/trade journalism. Dan earned a Master's Degree in Journalism and Public Affairs from American University in Washington, D.C., and has spent the last 20 years in the nation's capital reporting on government, enterprise technology, policy and national cybersecurity. He’s also a former intelligence officer in the United States Marine Corps, has authored three books on cybersecurity, and has testified on critical infrastructure protection before both House and Senate committees.
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