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FCW : March 15, 2016
The Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act is the first major legislation that can fundamentally alter how IT is man- aged since the passage of the Clinger-Cohen Act in 1996. Those of us who care deeply about how effectively and efficiently the federal government operates believe improv- ing IT management is foundational, and we see FITARA as the potential catalyst for driving that improvement. There is certainly progress to celebrate — from the pas- sage of FITARA itself and the Office of Management and Budget’s implementation guidance to the plans agencies have crafted and the poor (but largely accurate) agency grades issued by Congress. All of that is well documented, and many leaders have worked diligently to get us to this point, including a number of agency CIOs; U.S. CIO Tony Scott and his staff; Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), Dar- rell Issa (R-Calif.), Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Mark Mead- ows (R-N.C.); Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.); and the lawmakers’ staffs. Change is difficult for any bureaucracy, and it is fair to say that sustained change is especially difficult in the U.S. federal government, one of the largest bureaucra- cies in the world. That is certainly the case for an initia- tive that takes four to five years to yield demonstrable and significant benefits for agency operations. So while I applaud the progress, I am concerned about our govern- ment’s ability to sustain the leadership required to drive this change, particularly as we enter the last year of the Obama administration. Therefore, like any good program manager, we should identify our risks and develop plans to address them. Here is my take on the major risks and associated mitigation steps to help ensure FITARA’s success. Risk 1: The government loses momentum on FITARA implementation during the presidential transition To avoid having good processes wiped out when new lead- ers arrive, two mitigation steps should be taken. First, law- makers who have shown leadership on FITARA must keep up the pressure as the new administration takes shape. I have been pleased to hear that Connolly and Hurd plan to do just that, and I hope other congressional leaders will join them. The second step is to establish as much of the FITARA infrastructure as possible this year. New policies should be drafted and approved that codify the tenets of FITARA at each agency. The governance frameworks, budget review processes, delegation authority and other elements should be established and operational so that new leaders will have little incentive to make changes in IT management but will instead use what is already in place to support their agendas. Risk 2: FITARA becomes a compliance, check-the-box exercise Like many laws before it, FITARA’s intent is good, but its execution by a bureaucracy over time can build a rigid artifice that shifts to rote compliance. The Federal Information Security Management Act’s intent to improve the government’s IT security was admirable, but 10 years BY RICHARD A. SPIRES The keys to the law’s success are identifying and mitigating the risks to its implementation, especially in light of the upcoming presidential transition FITARA: Can we maintain momentum? CIOPerspective 26 March 15, 2016 FCW.COM Richard A. Spires has been in the IT field for more than 30 years, with eight years in federal govern- ment service. He is now CEO of Learning Tree International and chairman of Resilient Network Systems. SHUTTERSTOCK/1105MEDIA 031516fcw_026-027.indd 26 2/18/16 2:44 PM
March 30, 2016