Is it time to add IT workforce ratings to the FITARA scorecard?

Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

A new report from ACT-IAC recommends changes to the biannual FITARA scorecard, including adding a category measuring IT workforce capabilities.

The nonprofit American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council (ACT-IAC) is recommending that Congress add a technology workforce as a category to the biannual Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act report cards issued by the House Oversight and Reform Committee since 2015.

"Finding, growing, and keeping IT people has never been easy. What has changed recently is the severity and complexity of the IT staffing problem," reads the new report. The report includes recommendations for the scorecard from a group of former senior government IT leaders. "Today the search for skilled technology professionals has risen to a fever pitch."

The authors suggest measuring the share of an agency's IT workforce eligible for retirement, whether an agency has a IT workforce strategic plan and how its making progress against that plan.

The rest of the score would come from whether agencies have an IT workforce strategic plan and what progress they're making on closing their tech workforce gap.

"Both keeping a solid IT workforce, but also finding and being able to recruit new talent into a federal agency with the right technical credentials and background is very difficult," Richard Spires, former CIO at the Department of Homeland Security and the IRS and member of the group that came up with these recommendations, told FCW. 

"One of the key reasons we felt it was so important to get it on the scorecard was to start to identify this as a foundational issue that needs to be addressed," he said. 

Spires pointed to the problems many agencies have been facing in recruiting and retaining cybersecurity workers specifically as an example. 

There are around 714,500 cyber job openings in the U.S. currently. Nearly 39,000 of those openings are in the public sector, according to Cyberseek, a project backed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The White House-based Office of the National Cyber Director is currently working on a cyber workforce and education plan meant to address the problem.

The report suggests that in the future, Congress could also grade agencies on education and certifications, diversity and recruiting as part of an IT workforce category, and make adjustments to account for contractor IT workforces as well.

Other experts have recommended that the scorecard improve its metrics around cybersecurity by measuring agencies' progress in moving to zero trust, among other things, FCW reported earlier this year. The ACT-IAC report also has recommendations for the cybersecurity category. 

The latest report also includes other recommendations, including a suggestion to evolve the data center optimization category to instead measure the adoption of cloud computing in agencies.

The ACT-IAC team also recommends changes to the category on incremental development to specifically measure the use of modern system development practices like agile, DevSecOps and customer experience best practices.

In the future, Congress might consider adding a category solely focused on customer experience, the report says, although the report's authors don't think there is currently a way to easily grade this. That's also the case for their second suggestion for a long-term consideration – cross-agency collaboration.