Two broad score-keeping decisions by the House Oversight and Reform Committee shook up agency grades on the 13th edition of the committee’s FITARA Scorecard released on Jan. 20, with those changes likely to have a continuing impact on future scorecards results.

The House Government Operations Subcommittee, which holds its semiannual public hearing on the FITARA Scorecard results on Jan. 20 at 9 a.m., will discuss those and other possible grading category changes when it convenes the hearing that features several Federal CIOs and other IT leaders on the witness list.

As always, the easiest way to make sense of the House Oversight committee’s multicolored scorecard is to view the results on MeriTalk’s FITARA Dashboard.

Goodbye DCOI

Helping to raise the grades of several of the 24 Federal CFO Act agencies on the latest scorecard was the committee’s decision to award all agencies with an “A” grade for compliance with the government’s Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI) that has aimed over the past several years to shrink data center sprawl.

Because each of the 24 agencies have now won the top mark, the committee indicated that it will sunset the DCOI grading category for future scorecards.

On the previous version of the scorecard issued in July 2021, 18 agencies already had earned an “A” grade on the DCOI category. But for the six agencies that had not yet mastered the topic, the boost in that category helped them raise, or least maintain, their overall FITARA scores for the latest grading period. Agencies that benefited include:

  • Justice Department (DoJ), which received a failing DCOI grade on the prior scorecard, and whose overall score improved by a full letter grade on the latest scorecard, to a “C-” mark;
  • State Department, which had a “D” grade for DCOI on the prior scorecard, but which scored a full letter overall grade improvement on the latest scorecard, to a “B”;
  • Health and Human Services (HHS), which had a “D” DCOI grade six months ago, and maintained its overall “B” score on the latest scorecard;
  • Homeland Security Department (DHS), which had a “C” grade for DCOI on the prior scorecard, improved its overall score by a full letter grade on the latest scorecard, to “B”;
  • Commerce Department, which had a “C” grade for DCOI on the prior scorecard, improved its overall score by a full letter grade on the latest scorecard, to “B+”; and
  • S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which had a “C” grade for DCOI on the prior scorecard, but saw its overall score improve by a full-letter grade on the latest scorecard, to “A.”

The DCOI grading category has sometimes been a bone of contention at previous FITARA scorecard hearings held by the House Government Operations Subcommittee, mostly due to policy differences in how the initiative has been tweaked over the past few years.

What’s beyond dispute is that the policy has saved the government big money; the Government Accountability Office reported last year that the 24 Federal agencies participating in DCOI achieved an estimated $1.1 billions during 2019-2020 through data center closures and consolidations. Overall, the House Government Operations Subcommittee reckons that DCOI has saved $4 billion of costs from fiscal years 2016 to 2021.

Raising the Bar on EIS

On the downside, a whopping 15 agencies received failing grades on their progress to transition away from telecommunications services contracts under the expiring Networx contract, and to buy those services under the General Services Administration’s (GSA) $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) contract.

On the previous FITARA scorecard issued last July, only two of the 24 agencies received failing grades.

What changed since then to drive many agency grades lower? The committee boosted its grading measure in the EIS transition category with an eye toward GSA’s goal of having agencies complete 90 percent of the transition by March 2022. The bottom line on that recalculation was that agencies that have completed 81 percent or greater of the transition received an “A” grade in the category this time around, while agencies that had not yet completed 54 percent of the transition received an “F” grade.

Driving the committee’s thinking on how to recalibrate success in the EIS category are potential cost savings. “Previous delays during the transition to Networx resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in missed savings,” the committee said.

Of the 15 agencies that received a failing grade on EIS transition on the latest scorecard, only four – Commerce, DHS, State Department, and Office of Personnel Management (OPM) – received higher overall scorecard grades compared to the July 2021 tallies. Three agencies – GSA, Interior Department, and Agriculture Department – saw their overall FITARA scores decline.

Agencies scoring the highest on EIS transition on the latest scorecard include:

  • “A” grades – USAID, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, National Science Foundation, and Treasury Department;
  • “B” grades – Labor Department;
  • “C” grades – HHS, and Veterans Affairs; and
  • “D” grades – Justice Department, and Small Business Administration.
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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.