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FCW : January and February 2017
Regardless of who is in the White House, many of us who have served in the federal government in an IT func- tion or support the government’s IT as contractors have an overriding objec- tive: to help make the federal govern- ment more effective and efficient via the use of IT. That objective is bipartisan, and Congress last year showed leader- ship in support of federal IT with the passage of the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA). As the Trump administration begins, we are at a seminal moment that, if handled correctly, can acceler- ate the adoption of new technologies and techniques that can provide sig- nificant improvements. Handled incor- rectly, we will continue to languish, with many agencies struggling just to maintain the legacy systems they currently run and unable to consider transformational change via the use of new technology and systems. How federal IT goes over the next four years will largely be dependent on the direction and leadership set by the White House, supported by Congress and embodied in a few key positions — namely the director of the Office of Management and Bud- get, OMB’s deputy director for man- agement, the U.S. CIO and the newly created federal chief information secu- rity officer post. The levers and tools are there, with FITARA being a way to effectively empower agency CIOs to collaboratively drive such change at their agencies. My advice is straightforward: I rec- ommend that the next administration’s IT agenda focus on three major initia- tives. Any other initiatives should be undertaken only if they support one or more of these three pillars: 1. Eliminate system duplication. Agencies spend upwards of 80 per- cent of their IT dollars on operating and maintaining legacy systems. It is not that all those systems need replac- ing, but with such a large percentage of the budget spent on legacy IT, it is exceedingly difficult to drive any sig- nificant modernization efforts. I doubt that in this political environment more money will be forthcoming (look at the fate of the proposed $3.1 billion IT Modernization Fund), so agencies need to generate real savings within their own IT spending to fund mod- ernization efforts. One need look no further than the annual Government Accountability Office report to understand the extent of the opportunities for eliminating system duplication. The 2016 report cites work that I was involved with at the Department of Homeland Security, where we conducted an inventory of human resources systems and appli- cations — 422 is the current count. Most large agencies have signifi- cant duplication that, if aggressively tackled, could result in significant cost savings. The challenge has not been the technology but the leadership (and authority) to break down barriers to consolidate and eliminate systems. 2. Get serious about program, project and acquisition manage- ment. I am constantly amazed (and disappointed) by the state of our gov- ernment’s ability to actually deliver IT systems. Although we train program managers and demand certifications, time and again agencies struggle to field skilled and experienced proj- ect or program management teams that have the ability to plan, devel- BY RICHARD A. SPIRES Three key initiatives should drive the federal IT agenda under the new administration, with the goal of making government more effective and efficient IT advice for the Trump administration CIOPerspective Richard A. Spires has been in the IT field for more than 30 years, with eight years in federal government service. He is now CEO of Learning Tree International and chairman of Resilient Network Systems. 30 January/February 2017 FCW.COM 0217fcw_030-031.indd 30 1/25/17 9:33 AM
November and December 2016