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FCW : December 2013
26 December 2013 FCW.COM The signi cant troubles with the rollout of HealthCare.gov have put IT manage- ment issues front and center. In all my years in federal IT, I do not remember a president addressing the need for us to improve the way we buy and man- age IT. Although the attention is born of crisis, it is refreshing to see this issue being addressed at the most senior lev- els of government. So what is the appropriate response, and in particular, would IT reform leg- islation be of any real value? Given that the Clinger-Cohen Act has bombed, how can we ensure that this time it will be different? Legislation alone will not fix all that is wrong with government IT management, but I am very support- ive of legislation that would address fundamental structural problems. I appreciate the leadership of Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Gerry Con- nolly (D-Va.) in co-sponsoring the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act. This bipartisan effort in the House is encouraging, and it has produced a bill that addresses key issues in IT management and acquisition. The FITARA language is good, but there are a couple of areas that should be strengthened to ensure that the leg- islation has maximum positive impact in supporting needed changes in IT management. In my previous columns on IT infrastructure, I laid out six actions the federal government should take to overcome obstacles to a modern, standard and appropriately consolidat- ed IT infrastructure. That infrastruc- ture would create the foundation for enabling IT to be more ef cient and effective in supporting timely deliv- ery of new capabilities for agencies mission and business customers, and it would improve the government s overall IT security posture. How can legislation help? First, it is imperative that the agency CIO be given complete control over all IT infra- structure at his or her agency. It would be very helpful to have that authority codi ed in legislation. In addition, to address other areas of signi cant dupli- cation and inef ciency as pointed out in multiple Government Accountability Of ce reports, the agency CIO should have control over standard collabora- tion systems, such as email, and busi- ness systems, including nance, human resources and other administrative functions. That would enable agency CIOs to aggressively consolidate dupli- cative business systems. Overall, the combination of IT infra- structure, standard collaboration sys- tems and business systems has been given the label "commodity IT." The term is a misnomer because much of the expertise needed to modernize IT infrastructure or consolidate business systems is anything but commodity work. That does not, however, invalidate the need for agency CIOs to have authority over the infrastructure and business systems. It is best practice today and necessary for effective IT management. Second, legislation should explic- itly state that the agency CIO has the responsibility and authority to ensure that best practices in IT program man- agement are being used throughout the agency on all IT programs, including mission-oriented IT. The agency CIO does not need to own all the programs, but he or she must ensure proper man- agement of them. That approach would have helped to avert some of the critical failings of CIOPerspective BY RICHARD A. SPIRES Although legislation alone will not x federal IT management, there are fundamental problems that only a new statute can address IT management: It is time for legislative reform Richard A. Spires has been in the IT eld for more than 30 years, with eight years in federal govern- ment service. Most recently, he served as CIO at the Department of Homeland Security.
November 30, 2013