With the expected release of the next FITARA Scorecard now just weeks away, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) official with deep knowledge of the scorecard-making process talked about the success that the exercise has had in boosting the roles of chief information officers at Federal agencies, and adjusting along with changing Federal IT priorities.

The scorecard – which is issued twice per year by the House Oversight and Reform Committee with significant input from GAO and the House Government Operations Subcommittee chaired by Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va. – tracks Federal agency progress across an evolving range of IT issues and is generally followed by a subcommittee hearing that delves into the scores.

The release of the upcoming version of the scorecard is tracking for late July or early August.

Dave Hinchman, acting director of IT and cybersecurity at GAO, said at a June 30 virtual event organized by NextGov that the FITARA scorecard has “made a huge difference” in improving visibility of the role of IT and the influence of CIOs in Federal agencies since the first scorecard was issued in 2015.

One of the biggest improvements generated by the scorecard, he said, is its grading on whether agency CIOs report to their departments’ secretaries or deputies.  Some agencies, he said, “still struggle with CIO authorities … but there have been improvements.”

“It may not be perfect … but all that visibility helps,” Hinchman said. He continued that GAO would like to see more progress on CIO authorities, and believes current law clearly encourages that.

“We would love to see agencies … give their CIO a seat at the table for major budget decisions … rather than have someone waiting to see what their slice of the annual budget is,” Hinchman said.

Overall, “we have seen agencies increasingly focus” on the FITARA Scorecard categories, and in turn, “the scorecard has evolved” to meet changing priorities, he said.

TMF Wait and See

Elsewhere during his remarks during the June 30 event, Hinchman had little news to offer on the quantity and type of proposals coming from Federal agencies to the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF), following its call in May for proposals to start spending some of the $1 billion of funding awarded to it under the American Rescue Plan Act.

TMF said it would give the highest priority consideration to proposals to modernize high-priority systems, improve cybersecurity, boost public-facing digital systems, and create cross-government services and infrastructure.

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Since then, various reports have put the number of proposals submitted to close to 100, and Matt Hartman, deputy executive assistant director for cybersecurity at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), said during a MeriTalk event on June 22 that the TMF board – of which he is a member – has reviewed several proposals related to zero trust security architectures.

Hinchman noted reports that Federal CIO Clare Martorana hopes to make the first batch of TMF awards “fairly soon,” and added, “we are going to have to wait and see.”

The GAO official discussed in general terms his office’s ongoing work on reviewing TMF and indicated that GAO’s next report may be ready by December. That report, he said, may include analysis of how TMF covers its own costs of evaluating proposals from Federal agencies.

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.