Are We There Yet? Achieving IT Reform in the Federal Government

In this post, we provided an overview of The Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) and the various other Acts that have been passed to help streamline the procurement and use of IT for a modern government. Even with all of this focus on improving IT infrastructure, compliance with FITARA has been slow. Grades on the self-assessment scorecards are stagnating, and compliance with other related acts has been just as slow. It's easy to agree that government IT needs a boost to meet the expectations of citizens, so why, with all of these incentives and compliance checks in place, is progress so slow?[Tweet "Are We There Yet? Achieving IT Reform in the Federal Government. #GovEventsBlog"]

In an IT and "business" environment as complex as the federal government, there are many reasons for the slow improvement toward FITARA goals. Here are just a few of the challenges agencies are facing in meeting what seems to be "no-brainer" directives:

  • Legacy IT is difficult to update or migrate off of. There is so much important data stored in machines that are not compatible with the latest, most efficient technology. It takes time to migrate that information for lasting storage.[Tweet "A few of the challenges agencies are facing in meeting FITARA goals. #GovEventsBlog"]
  • The scale of government makes what should be basic tasks, a huge undertaking. Imagine how much software is used across an agency, a department. Simply inventorying those is a herculean effort. Only once agencies know what they have can they begin the move to more efficient license agreements and technology use.
  • The government did not historically always account for all of their IT. Data centers, for example, did not have a standard definition of what counted as a 'data center.' Without knowing what you have to start, setting metrics and tracking progress is
  • There have also been issues raised with how FITARA progress is scored - looking more at budgets than the IT itself. These modernization projects are expensive and the large upfront costs do result in longer-term savings - a point we have not gotten to just three years in.
  • In recent months the turnover of CIOs and other senior IT leaders has had a negative impact on FITARA progress. The Act is dependent on CIOs having authority and taking ownership of budget decisions. The idea being that CIOs understand both the data and the technology in their agency and are in the best position to drive buying decisions and strategy. Empty positions make progress hard to come by.

Seeing these challenges and believing in the goals of FITARA, there is already a call for the FITARA Enhancement Act to keep modernization a top priority and maintain the momentum (as slow as it may be) already in place. In fact, in early October a bill was passed to extend FITARA by two years.[Tweet "IT modernization is critical to a functioning government. #GovEventsBlog"]

Regardless of the challenges, everyone agrees that IT modernization is critical to a functioning government, and all are working to get there in a way that meets the needs of their agency and the regulations.

We'd love to hear your thoughts on how your agency is meeting FITARA and related guidance and regulations. Share your thoughts in the comments.

Leave a Reply