Improving grades on the 10th Federal Information Technology Reform Act (FITARA) scorecard show agencies are working toward fulfillment of both the letter and spirit of the legislation, according to one of its architects.
“For the first time, there are no Ds and no Fs [on the FITARA scorecard],” Gerry Connolly, chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Government Operations subcommittee, told “Government Matters” Sunday. “I think one of the reasons for that is, we have made real progress in empowering CIOs.”
Connolly attributes at least some of the success CIOs are having to that empowerment. “They have been able to get the attention, they’ve been able to seize the mission, and [they’re] working with heads of agencies much more frequently.”
But Connolly cautions that conforming to the letter of FITARA won’t ensure the success he and his co-author, former Rep. Darrel Issa, sought. “I don’t want the scorecard to evolve into a ‘check the box and collect your prize’ [effort]. This is about a process of improvement that is continuous.”
Connolly sees gradations of execution among the CIO community. “Some people may approach it bureaucratically, and check the box. I think far more CIOs get it, that this is about a transformative process, whereby we bring really bring our agency into the 21st century, and integrate the technology into the mission.”
Agencies aren’t maximizing two tools they have to fulfill the letter and spirit of FITARA, though, according to Connolly. The Modernizing Government Technology Act created both the Technology Modernization Fund, a government-wide revolving fund through which agencies can apply for money; and individual agency working capital funds. Both vehicles are suffering from insufficient cash flow.
“The problem has been getting my colleagues in Congress on the Appropriations Committees to understand how critically necessary that investment [in the Technology Modernization Fund] is,” Connolly said. “For some members of Congress, it’s counterintuitive that you need it at all. We spend $96 billion a year on federal IT. But 80% of that $96 billion is maintaining the legacy systems.”
The agencies may be standing in their own ways on the working capital funds, Connolly said.
“We’ve made some progress [on agencies establishing their own funds] since the last FITARA scorecard, but there’s a long ways to go,” Connolly told “Government Matters.” “Some agencies simply can’t identify, or don’t want to identify, the capital necessary to do that. And some others are being advised by their General Counsels that they don’t have the legal authority to do it, even though we passed a law saying you did.”
Connolly believes more oversight and collaboration with agency leaders will move the needle. “We need to be working with the agencies, with the General Counsels, with the CIOs, to incentivize that [fund development]. We do grade that as part of the scorecard.”