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FCW : August 30, 2014
Commentary | WILLIAM LORD WILLIAM LORD is a retired Air Force lieutenant general and a board member at EvolveWare. Innovation was a major theme outlined in the federal IT budget priorities for 2014, which touched on plans to incorporate more big data, virtualization and cybersecu- rity initiatives into the public sector. Adopting new technologies, wheth- er you re a multinational corpora- tion or a government agency, can be a drawn-out, dif cult endeavor. Government IT programs, how- ever, are plagued by a rather unique problem: a serious leadership crisis that impedes the implementation and success of IT initiatives. That leadership crisis has not necessarily evolved from disparities or disputes among leaders. Instead, the problem is rooted in an excess of federal government CIOs, which dilutes the title itself and leaves no single CIO with the authority to effectively manage short- or long- term projects. It seems that change might be on its way. Earlier this year, the House passed the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act, which aims to solve the government s CIO surplus woes and untangle the public sector s technology adoption process. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has approved its version of FITARA, which now awaits consideration by the full Senate. FITARA would grant more authority to agency CIOs and estab- lish a proper groundwork for man- aging intricate federal IT projects. The fundamentals proposed in FITARA directly target some of the historical problems with govern- ment IT operations. Although the bill s ultimate fate is still unknown, these are issues the government must be prepared to act on either way, especially if it hopes to follow through on its latest tech ambitions. 1. Give decision-makers the authority to lead. Effective IT management depends on leaders who can arrive at the right deci- sions quickly, but the sheer num- ber of CIOs at the federal level has prevented those holding the title from doing so. Currently, there are more than 250 CIOs on the federal government s payroll. With decision-making decentral- ized and thus constrained to indi- vidual departments, it has become nearly impossible to equip one CIO with enough power to successfully implement lasting initiatives. More- over, it has become virtually impos- sible to standardize those processes across agencies. 2. Address historical failures. Recent failures --- such as the rocky rollout of HealthCare.gov and the U.S. Air Force s storied Expedition- ary Combat Support System project --- highlight the severity of the gov- ernment s IT leadership problem. Without the multitude of CIOs in the federal government, IT execu- tives could regain a higher degree of control over their IT projects. And if they had more control, CIOs would be able to better man- age those contracts and timelines and ensure stakeholder buy-in ear- lier in the game. In order for the public sector to deliver on its plans for more cloud technology, increased data acces- sibility and a generally more open government, some rearranging should be in order. FITARA could prove instrumen- tal in bringing the U.S. government s plans for tech innovation to fruition. On a deeper level, the legislation would amplify CIOs involvement with strategic IT initiatives --- a crit- ical move, especially as IT becomes more important to the execution of government policy. More important, FITARA would nally address the overabundance of federal CIOs and their subse- quent lack of control. Appointing fewer CIOs and granting each more authority would be a signi cant stride toward streamlined govern- ment IT and a more innovative public sector. ■ How FITARA can x federal IT The legislation would go a long way toward addressing federal IT woes by tackling the leadership challenges that plague large, complex projects Appointing fewer CIOs and granting each more authority would be a significant stride toward streamlined government IT and a more innovative public sector. August 30, 2014 FCW.COM 11
September 15, 2014
August 15, 2014