OMB Unveils FITARA Guidelines For Public Comment

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The guidelines, posted on GitHub, are open for comment until May 30.

Months after Congress approved the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act -- designed to prevent government technology flubs like’s glitchy rollout -- the Office of Management and Budget has released implementation guidelines.

The draft guidance is posted on GitHub in an attempt to “signal transparency in federal policymaking and to reach a broad audience,” OMB wrote. OMB is technically accepting public comment until May 30, though the agency encourages stakeholders to submit responses by May 15.

Approved in December, FITARA broadly aims to give agency chief information officers more authority over budgets, also encouraging them to check in on federal IT contracts frequently to avoid failure. The requirements apply to most federal agencies; the Defense Department and the intelligence community are only subject to certain parts.

The draft guidance establishes common baseline roles for executives overseeing federal IT. For instance, agencies must ensure the chief financial officer, the chief information officer and the chief acquisition officer are all included in agencywide budget development. In addition, the CIO must approve the movement of funds for IT resources.

According to the draft, agencies are required to compete a maximum 25-page self-assessment and plans to meet the common baseline rules by Dec. 31, 2015. They must submit this plan to OMB’s Office of E-Government by Aug. 15, and must check in annually. The first check-in is slated for April 30, 2016.

The draft also outlines quarterly and monthly check-ins. Agencies are required to provide quarterly data to OMB about cost-saving metrics and other performance indicators. They must also report on risks, performance metrics, project and activity data for major IT investments, either as soon as data becomes available or at least once a calendar month. (If that data is not available, the CIO and the agency head must notify OMB.)

Agencies also must attend TechStat sessions -- face-to-face, evidence-based reviews of IT programs with agency leadership. If an investment has a high risk of failure, they must hold a TechStat session on that particular investment, within 30 days of the completion of the third month. And while agencies were previously only required to hold annual reviews of their entire IT portfolios using the PortfolioStat system, the guidance requires agencies hold quarterly PortfolioStat meetings with OMB and the agency CIO. 

The draft also outlines other initiatives, including streamlining of government IT purchases; for instance, the General Services Administration, along with OMB, plans to create a governmentwide software licensing system through new contract awards to "avoid unnecessary duplicative spending and activities . . . [T]hese awards shall, at a minimum, allow for the purchase of a license agreement that is available for use by all executive agencies."

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