OMB exaggerated 25-point plan performance, GAO says

Federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel

Federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel Flickr user techcrunch

Federal CIO says the disagreement is a matter of ‘scoping.’

The Office of Management and Budget has fully completed only three of the 10 pillars of its information technology reform plan, despite having declared in December that it had closed out seven, a government watchdog told a Senate panel Thursday.

The Government Accountability Office picked the 10 disputed agenda items, including consolidating federal data centers and shifting to a cloud-first policy for government computer storage, from OMB’s 2010 25-Point Implementation Plan to Reform Federal IT Management.

Federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel has described 19 of those points as completed. The entire plan was slated to be completed by June.

GAO’s disagreement with OMB is largely a matter of “scoping” and semantics, VanRoekel told the Senate Homeland Security Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management. The CIO’s office views the 25-point plan as “a discrete set of actions that needed to be undertaken” while GAO is looking for broader, systemic reforms, he said.

“At the end of the day, that strategy was really about shocking the system,” he said. “It was about applying a tactical change to wake people up. Federal IT reform doesn’t begin or end with the 25-point plan. We’re taking a broad approach to go above and beyond most elements of the 25-point plan.”

Declaring victory too soon, though, could lead to sloppy performance down the road and erase OMB’s early gains, said David Powner, director of GAO’s IT team. Powner focused especially on data center consolidation, saying many agencies haven’t established firm metrics for how their data center closures will translate into financial savings.

“I think we’re in agreement that there’s been really solid progress across the board,” he told subcommittee Chairman Tom Carper, D-Del. “On the extent of the progress and what remains to be done there might be differences.

“Steve had a great line where he said he’s on the 10-yard line and getting ready to drive it into the end zone,” Powner continued. “I don’t know if we’d agree he’s in the red zone now, but he’s definitely over the 50-yard line.”

GAO also released a report Wednesday detailing the seven goals for which OMB has overstated its progress.

They are:

  • Complete detailed implementation plans to consolidate at least 800 data centers by 2015
  • Shift to a cloud first policy
  • Launch a best practices collaboration platform
  • Issue contracting guidance and templates to support modular development
  • Work with Congress to create IT budget models that align with modular development
  • Work with Congress to consolidate commodity IT spending under agency CIOs
  • And redefine role of agency CIOs and the Chief Information Officers Council

GAO and OMB agree the agency has completed plans to:

  • Stand up contract vehicles for secure infrastructure-as-a-service solutions.
  • Design a cadre of specialized IT acquisition professionals.
  • And reform and strengthen investment review boards.

The report chided OMB for not establishing performance measures for six of the 10 items that GAO reviewed.

“Until OMB establishes and tracks measureable, outcome-oriented performance measures for each of the action items in the IT reform plan,” the report said, “the agency will be limited in its ability to evaluate progress that has been made and whether or not the initiative is achieving its goals.”

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