House approves new version of FITARA

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A bill reforming federal management of information technology has another shot at becoming law following the House's Feb. 25 passage by voice vote of the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act.

The bill (H.R. 1232) the House approved Tuesday afternoon is different in some key respects from an earlier version the House attached as an amendment to a national defense authorization bill.

That version, which a conference committee stripped out from the final version of the fiscal 2014 NDAA, wouldn't have applied a section increasing the power of major departmental chief information officers to the Defense Department, whereas now it would.

FITARA stipulates that CIOs "participate" in the budget planning process related to IT or programs that include significant IT components, and that IT funds at major agencies be allocated "in such manner as specified by, or approved by" the CIO. That approval would be required to be done in consultation with the chief financial officer and budget officials, the bill adds.

In addition, CIOs at large agencies – specifically, the 24 CFO Act agencies – would have hiring authority over IT personnel, and those employees would report to the CIO "in a manner considered sufficient" by the CIO.

Only one person would be able to carry the title of the CIO in any federal agency. Congressional sponsors of the bill – Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) – became infuriated years ago after learning that bureaus within departments have their own "chiefs," pointing toward the gaggle of CIOs as evidence of dysfunction.

"There are more than 250 identified CIOs in the federal government, yet none possess the necessary authority to effectively manage IT investments," said Connolly, in floor remarks before bill passage.

This FITARA would also leave it up to congressional appropriators whether to go forward with the idea of establishing governmentwide "collaboration centers" tasked with developing requirements suitable for intergovernmental acquisition of commodity IT.

Whereas FITARA previously called for OMB to permanently establish the center and pay for it using 5 percent of fees generated by interagency contracting such as General Services Administration schedules, this new version calls only for a three year pilot to test the concept – and only if appropriations bills okay in advance any spending for it.

Among other things, the center would be tasked with maintaining a non-public catalog of current prices paid by federal agencies to vendors of IT infrastructure and common applications.

The new FITARA also preserves the "assisted acquisition center of excellence" concept, albeit with added language stressing that their use by agencies would be optional. The centers, which OMB would designate, would be offices that develop specialized expertise in the acquisition of certain technology and would be charged with developing best practices and in training the IT acquisition workforce.

The Federal IT Dashboard would come under new requirements from this version of FITARA. Following revelations that agency self-certified information on the dashboard is unreliable, the bill contains added language that would require CIOs to certify at least once every three months that their agency's information is current and accurate. In addition, the Office of Management and Budget would be constrained to conduct quarterly reviews of the data on the dashboard "and publicly identify agencies with an incomplete certification or with significant data quality issues."

For more:
- go to the Congress.gov page for H.R. 1232
- download the version approved by the House (.pdf)
- download a redlined version showing changes from the NDAA amendment version (.pdf)
- download a section-by-section analysis of the new version (.pdf)

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