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Top 10 Ways to Make FITARA Work


Top 10 Ways to Make FITARA Work

By Eleanor Lamb

[Full article originally appeared in MeriTalk. Read here for full article and more coverage on FITARA.]

Application of the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) has reached an important juncture, according to a recent report from the Censeo Consulting Group.

Censeo worked with Cyrrus Analytics and Hettinger Strategy Group to create the report, titled “FITARA at a Crossroads.” Enacted 18 months ago, FITARA involves a scorecard that grades Federal agencies on their IT acquisition processes. The scorecard contains fields on Data Center Consolidation, Risk Transparency, IT Portfolio Review, and Incremental Development. Censeo’s report said that the FITARA scorecard is starting to diverge from the goals the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) had in mind during the act’s inception.

“The government is better off with a more standard and detailed approach to FITARA implementation, one that applies consistency throughout agencies and provides government with the IT governance attributes that increasingly complex IT deployments now require,” the report states. “The next few months are critical in shaping the future of FITARA.”

Censeo, Cyrrus, and the Hettinger Group offer 10 recommendations on how Federal agencies can shape FITARA for the better and “match the legislation’s original intent of empowering CIOs and rationalizing IT spending.”

The following is a summarization of the 10 recommendations:

  1. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (HOGR), the Government Accountability Office (GAO), and OMB need to communicate more to align their oversight focus. Unless these entities connect and find a common understanding, OMB and Federal agencies will continue using self-tally assessments while HOGR and GAO will continue using limited data sets to push accountability.
  2. Clarify FITARA roles of OMB, the CIO Council, GAO, and HOGR, and empower the FITARA Coordinator role. The FITARA Coordinator, on behalf of OMB, would enforce FITARA standards across agencies. The CIO Council would facilitate inter-agency FITARA collaboration. GAO would continue to audit the government’s ability to meet legislative requirements. HOGR would continue to provide congressional oversight.
  3. Collectively rebuild the scorecard through data sharing between OMB and GAO. If GAO could access OMB’s agency data, which is more detailed than the information stored by any other entity, they would be able to make more accurate assessments.
  4. Create a formal FITARA Working Council comprised of agency FITARA leaders who would report to the CIO Council. This will allow all CFO Act agencies to share policies, progress, and data so that 24 agencies are not complying with FITARA in 24 different ways.
  5. Hold agency leaders, not just CIOs, responsible for FITARA implementation. Involving more than one leader will “drive home FITARA faster.”
  6. Reassess the scorecard methodology. Factor progress into scores to provide incentive for better future performances. Introduce customized target goals for agencies so they can work to a specific, achievable point. Remove forced grading curves.
  7. Revamp current scorecard metrics to incentivize better outcomes. Grading criteria should be geared toward agency-specific issues in the Data Center Consolidation field. For the other three criteria, OMB and GAO “should determine if it makes sense to keep them or to scrap them altogether and create new ones.”
  8. Expand the scorecard to capture new metrics and provide  incentive for new behaviors. The grading criteria need to reflect new fields and provide incentive for future FITARA behaviors. The report says the current scorecard does not measure enough areas, comparing it to a referee determining the winner of a basketball game solely based on the teams’ free throw accuracy.
  9. Encourage OMB to take a more prescriptive role in the FITARA implementation process. A detailed road map to reach FITARA requirements will allow agencies to work together and create a more easily auditable scorecard.
  10. Enhance transparency by implementing a universal IT cost taxonomy. This will make it easier to compare and contrast costs per agency. This is a “longer-term aspirational requirement.”

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