Several industry experts told MeriTalk in the run-up to the release of the latest FITARA (Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act) Federal agency scorecards that expected funding flows from the Modernizing Government Technology Act (MGT Act) may go a long way toward helping agencies boost their scores.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (OGR) released its latest agency scorecard (Scorecard 6.0) on Tuesday, highlighted by 11 agencies receiving lower grades than six months earlier, six improving their scores, and seven holding even.

Jeffrey Chabot, director of government segment strategy at Schneider Electric IT Federal, told MeriTalk that Federal agency CIOs have lacked funding to make substantial improvements in recent years. But, he said, the funding picture should be improved by the MGT Act and passage of the FY18 Omnibus spending bill in March, and thus agency CIOs “should be judged a little differently going forward.”

“I would like to see a piece added to FITARA that shows how much MGT funds they applied for, what they were granted, how they used them, and down the road the ultimate result,” Chabot said.

Bob Osborn, chief technology officer for Federal and public sector at ServiceNow, added on a similar note that “funding agency IT modernization has always been the barrier to seeing higher scores in FITARA.”

Asked whether the FITARA scorecard process needs changing, Osborn responded, “Any legislation is only as good as it is current, particularly in an area that changes as rapidly as IT.” He added, “FITARA should be continuously updated to reflect changes in technology and the state of Federal funding for modernization initiatives.”

He continued, “The MGT was enacted in response to funding challenges… For those agencies that saw reductions in IT funding, the MGT Act Working Capital Fund will be critical in allowing those agencies to jump start” work on their objectives.

Adam Clater, chief architect for North American public sector at Red Hat said he believes there “could be some tracking of MGT implementation on future versions of the FITARA scorecard, as well as potentially a grading of cloud adoption.”

“The beauty of FITARA is that it seems to be adaptable to an evolving technology landscape,” he said. With Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, chairman of the House IT subcommittee, and Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., ranking member of the House government operations subcommittee, in positions of influence, “we have the congressional leadership required to maintain this focus,” Clater said.

Clater said that while agency FITARA scores will ebb and flow over time as agencies collect more information about their data centers, workloads and server utilization, the goal remains for scores to move higher over time.

“Tools like MGT only enhance the ability of government agencies to excel in their FITARA requirements,” Clater said, adding, he expects “over time, Congress will provide additional resources and capabilities in order to drive the goals of FITARA.”

Clater also gave enthusiastic backing to FITARA as a useful agency performance gauge well into the future.

“It’s lasting effects will be felt for years to come and… the FITARA scorecard will continue to evolve with the needs of government agencies,” he said. “Imagine if you will a day when we drop some of the more basic requirements from FITARA (solve a problem government wide), but are able to add new requirements like API enabling data, accessible citizen engagement, etc… We’re really just scratching the surface of what a focused oversight and engagement from Congress can deliver to government IT.”

President Trump’s IT Executive Order issued earlier this month also won industry praise as a means to buttress FITARA’s aims.

“IT Modernization continues to be a bi-partisan effort,” Clater said. “This EO serves as an endorsement, signifying that, across changing administrations, the value of FITARA will continue to be front of mind.”

“While the FITARA Act certainly laid out the requirements of CIO performance in modernizing and transforming IT in the Federal Government, having the Executive Order signed by the current President lends the weight of the White House and the President’s Management Agenda behind the Act,” said Osborn of ServiceNow. “It solidifies the objectives and ultimate outcomes of FITARA as a key goal of the Administration.”

“The Federal government needs the EO as about one-half of the agency CIOs report into someone other than the Secretary of the agency,” said Chabot of Schneider Electric. “For example, some folks were reporting into COOs, CFOs and other random folks way down the ladder. This new EO will not only bring them reporting to the top level in each agency they also be able to approve new hires into IT related roles.”

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