The IT Dashboard: Not Exactly Transparent

The transparency site’s big promises aren’t holding up in the light of day.

Is the Federal IT Dashboard really providing more transparency or just more fog?

That question lingers in the aftermath of a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee hearing on the government’s information technology reform programs last week.

The IT Dashboard lists the status of about 700 major government IT projects. It was launched as part of President Obama’s open government initiatives in 2009. The dashboard’s aim, according to officials, was to “strengthen the accountability of agency CIOs and provide more accurate and detailed information on projects and activities.”

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., the ranking member on the oversight panel, asked federal CIO Steven VanRoekel about the dashboard in the hearing Thursday. Specifically, he asked why the Defense Department, by far the government’s largest IT spender, hasn’t updated many of its project entries in two years and why it doesn’t describe any projects as high risk or moderately high risk, despite many of them being over budget and past deadline.

VanRoekel’s reply is worth quoting at length.

We don’t in OMB, in my office, track the self-reported status as the key indicator of performance on investments. It’s a fool’s errand to track self-reported. You’d never have a contractor self-report their results or things like that. So we go deeper than that and look at: How often do they change schedules? Where are they on budget? Are they hitting budget? What’s their time to delivery on services?

I’ve actually added features on the IT Dashboard in the last couple years that give me indications when agencies go in and do re-baselines, meaning they’ve changed their data in some fundamental way. Those, to me, are the red flags you want to look at and that’s where we’ll lift up and say ‘there’s something going on there.’ Self assessments will just never do that for you.

I agree, it’s laughable to some degree on DOD not reporting any poor investments. But we track [those investments] and we know where they are.

VanRoekel has indeed added the rebaseline indicators to the IT Dashboard, indicated by tiny white triangles placed along a line indicating the CIO’s appraisal of a project’s risk.

Describing an IT project, say  the Defense Department’s clinical health data system AHLTA, which still can’t speak to its counterpart at the Veterans Affairs Department, as having a three out of five CIO rating with two rebaselines since 2009 doesn’t exactly give the public a clear idea of how well the project is performing, though.

VanRoekel continued:

The second part of it is CIO authorities, looking at the authority of the CIO. The person who’s pictured next to all those investments is [Defense CIO] Teri Takai. Teri Takai has very little influence over most of the investments you’re looking at on that dashboard and she’s reporting what she gets from the self-reports of other people out there. That speaks to a larger theme of what we need to look at in government, which is the authority of the CIO.

This, of course, gives the lie to one of the dashboard’s main promises: “If a project is over budget or behind schedule, you can see by how much money and time, and you can see the person responsible--not just contact information but also their picture.”

Federal officials can be forgiven some hyperbole about their transparency initiatives. And the problem of CIO authority and accountability is much larger than the IT Dashboard and more complex as well. But with so many provisos attached to the Dashboard’s promises now, it may be time to rebaseline expectations for it as well. 

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.