New bill would grant CIOs greater authority

Legislation being drafted by House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa would clarify the CIO's role, and enact several other reforms.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has released an early draft of IT procurement reform legislation that would strengthen the CIO’s authority, while pushing for strategic sourcing and building cadres of IT acquisition professionals.

Based on the draft bill, which Issa released on Sept. 20,  the CIO would have to give approval for the agency’s IT spending. The CIO would also have the authority to approve the hiring of employees with IT responsibilities in the agency.

The bill would consolidate authority to one CIO per agency. Bureaus, offices or subordinate agency organizations could not have their own CIOs. IT overseers in those settings would be titled deputy CIOs. Moreover, an agency head would have to seek the advice of the CIO in designating or appointing a deputy CIO. The bill also emphasizes the lead role of the CIO Council, a committee of CIOs from across the federal government, in setting up cross-agency portfolio management policies to encourage more shared services and shared platforms.

Read the bill.

In a new op-ed column, Issa, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote that the proposal would fundamentally help agencies.

“Successfully implemented, the legislation would aggregate demand among the federal agencies to get the best price for the taxpayer, develop IT acquisition subject-matter experts to help other agencies buy things cheaper, faster, and smarter, and eliminate unnecessary duplication of IT contracts,” he wrote in a column Sept. 20 in NextGov.

Issa has yet to introduce the bill, but a committee staffer said he is near the beginning of a process of gathering wide stakeholder input.

In addition to redefining the CIO's role, the bill tackles more IT reform areas. It would set up plans for data center consolidation and performance requirements. It would require an inventory of governmentwide IT assets, and more specifically, an inventory of IT commodities among the agencies with a uniform classification system.

To further efforts of streamlining IT investments throughout government, the bill would create the Federal Commodity Information Technology Acquisition Center. It would be a focal point for coordinated acquisition practices and to obtain the lowest costs for commodity IT through strategic sourcing efforts. The center would pursue innovative buying approaches to “overcome vendor monopolies.”

The bill would drive agencies to use another agency with the expertise in a certain area of IT acquisition.

As agencies work to negotiate lower prices, the IT acquisition center would have price lists and a catalog containing current pricing information by vendor for each of its commodity IT categories. The price lists would have any price a vendor provides for the same or similar good or service.

It would even set up assisted acquisition centers of excellence.

In addition, the bill would:

  • Seek to improve the Defense Department’s Enterprise Software Initiative and the General Services Administration’s SmartBuy program, as means for strategic sourcing.
  • Establish governmentwide contracts for commodity IT purchases.
  • Train and deploy personnel with highly specialized skills in IT acquisition, including program and project managers, to be known as IT acquisition cadres.
  • Create excellence awards for the acquisition of IT, which could be cash bonuses.

In his column, Issa pointed to the high failure rates and cost overruns plaguing between 72 and 80 percent of large IT programs, even as money goes to maintain deficient and old IT resources. The government could be wasting an estimated $20 billion each year.

“We can reverse our dismal record by overhauling cumbersome federal acquisition process and adopting best practices from the private sector,” he added.