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Carol Harris, Director of Information Technology Acquisition Management Issues at GAO, goes over GAO’s work identifying risks in major IT acquisitions and its connection to the FITARA scorecard

In a recent report, the Government Accountability Office identified risks in 16 mission-critical IT acquisitions from across federal government. The acquisitions were wide-ranging, including projects to improve terrorism screening and public health resources.

According to Carol Harris, Director of Information Technology Acquisition Management Issues at GAO, failure in these systems would have a “debilitating effect” on agency missions. That said, many of these agencies are utilizing incremental development to progress through this process, as laid out by the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA).

“Agencies are adopting more incremental development approaches on a large scale,” Harris said. “These are encouraging signs, and I also think the FITARA Scorecard … has played a major impact on the acceleration of the adoption by the agencies.”

The report has designated 10 of the 16 observed acquisitions as high risk. Harris says the two common themes to these acquisitions are issues with the workforce and with technology. 11 of the 16 agencies had to rebaseline their adoption due to technical challenges in system development efforts.

“Workforce challenges, by far, was the most pressing challenge for these 16 acquisitions,” Harris said, pointing to agency leadership as way to alleviate that challenge. “Having increased authority in that area, for the CIOs, would be really critical to the successful deployment of these critical systems.”

Since 2015, IT acquisition and management of it has been deemed a high risk area by GAO.

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