FITARA 6.0: The Case of the Falling Scores

As summer vacation is in full swing across the country, we're sure many of you are missing tracking the grades of your students (insert sarcasm font here). We wanted to fill that void with a look at where agencies stand on their FITARA report cards. We've written here before about the progress, and lack of progress, agencies are making regarding modernizing IT infrastructure and services. The sixth report card on FITARA compliance was issued in May so we wanted to revisit the topic.

The Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) was enacted in December 2014 and agencies are evaluated on their progress against the Act's goals about twice a year. The latest report found that despite a renewed focus on modernization from both the executive and legislative branch, agencies are actually backsliding in terms of grades.

Part of the challenge agencies had with this reporting period was the addition of a new category to track progress on the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act. This "failure" should perhaps have been graded on a curve since MGT has only been in place since December 2017, meaning many agencies have not yet had a chance to have their proposals funded, much less started work.

But even discounting the MGT "learning curve," agency scores show that there is a real struggle across the board in meeting FITARA goals around:

  • Data Center Consolidation
  • IT Portfolio Review Savings
  • Incremental Development
  • Risk Assessment Transparency

A key area of improvement for agencies needs to be "strengthening authority for CIOs." This is not only part of FITARA, but is a main point raised in the White House's new IT Executive Order (EO). In the latest report, 15 agencies have their CIOs reporting directly to a Secretary or Deputy Secretary, up from 12 in the previous scorecard.

A third area that is hurting agencies is tracking software licenses for more efficient use of shared technology across government. This metric is an element of the MGT and is closely tied to CIOs having visibility and say across agencies so low performance here should not be surprising given the low scores in those other areas.

The Department of Defense (DoD) has historically been the lowest scoring agency, bringing down the government class average, but that may change. To date, some of DoD's difficulties stem from the sheer size and complexity of the organization. The new CIO, Dana Deasy, has stated that he is committed to, "better transparency and better implementation of the IT acquisition law's statutes."

There are also bright spots to report. This report showed The Department of Transportation (DoT), as the "most improved." DoT had never been graded higher than a D+ and on the last assessment received an F+. This scorecard found them earning a C+. Other agencies bettering their scores were Energy, Health and Human Services, Labor, and the National Science Foundation.

We'll continue tracking FITARA scores as a way to see where agencies will be focusing their IT efforts and budgets in an effort to move to the head of the modernization class.

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