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Rollout of New CIO Powers Could be 'Uneven,' DOJ CIO Says

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Months after it was signed into law, federal agencies are still waiting for guidance on how to implement the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act.

FITARA, signed in December as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, gives federal chief information officers more authority over budgets and personnel processes for IT investments, and requires agencies to make IT investments transparent to the public, consolidate federal data centers and develop their own IT acquisition teams, among other provisions. 

Speaking on a panel at a conference organized by nonprofit tech council ACT-IAC, the Justice Department's chief information officer, Joe Klimavicz, predicted that the speed and level of implementation could be "a bit uneven" across agencies.

While he'd like to have FITARA provisions in place at DOJ by the end of the fiscal year -- or even the calendar year -- "that may be too optimistic," he said. And though Klimavicz said he supports the provisions, "I also think we need to be strategic in our implementation," he added.

For instance, Klimavicz said, a department might process hundreds of thousands of contract activities related to IT. 

“If I take FITARA literally, I’m supposed to review all of them . . . there [are] just not enough hours in the day,” he said.

But when deciding which to review, Klimavicz said he would be more interested in newer, riskier investments, even if they were smaller, rather than larger, less risky investments. "We shouldn't be thinking about a dollar threshold" when prioritizing reviews, he said. 

The Office of Management and Budget is still drafting guidelines that could help agencies through the implementation process, said Ben Sweezy, data strategy lead at OMB. These might include a more detailed governance process, IT budget requirements or time frames for agencies. OMB doesn't have a deadline for when this guidance will be released, Sweezy said, although they're expected to be released sometime in the spring. 

Even once the guidelines are released and agencies begin to implement FITARA's provisions, "you can't legislate success," Sweezy added. 

For some CIOs who haven't been as closely involved in IT investments, "it may be a cultural change," Klimavicz said.

(Image via  / Shutterstock.com)

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