Federal CIO Clare Martorana today published the Biden administration’s Information Technology Operating Plan that ties together the efforts of four big Federal tech programs and offices into the administration’s goals to improve citizen service and cybersecurity, among other goals.

The IT Operating Plan, the Federal CIO said, responds to a request from Congress in Fiscal Year 2022 funding legislation for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to provide a plan to “maximize the impact” of four major Federal IT efforts. Those include:

  • The Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) administered by the General Services Administration (GSA);
  • The Information Technology Oversight and Reform account (ITOR) controlled by OMB;
  • The Federal Citizen Services Fund (FCSF) operated by GSA; and
  • The United States Digital Service (USDS) housed in the White House that hires technologists for term-limited tours of civil service.

“We recognize the significant investment that Congress has made in securing and modernizing Federal IT and have assembled this plan to explain how we ensure the wise investment of each dollar Congress has entrusted to us towards its highest use – creating the most impact for the American people,” Martorana said.

“We are at a unique moment in time to drive digital transformation across the Federal enterprise,” she said. “We can deploy technology that is secure by design, reduces costs for agencies, eliminates administrative burden for both customers and the Federal workforce, delivers Government services that meet modern expectations for the American people, and inspires the next generation to serve our great country.”

According to the plan, the Biden administration is leading “a unified IT operating plan that centers on the American people and gives them a Government that understands who they are, what they need, and how best to deliver services to them efficiently, effectively, and equitably, with accessibility and respect.”

“ITOR, TMF, and FCSF are key to enabling strategic-level execution of IT efforts and investments across Federal agencies,” the plans say, adding, “the funds have different and complementary strengths that stem from their inherent purposes and variations in the operating models of the implementing organizations.”

On the decision-making front, OMB and GSA are partnering “to set policies, create shared solutions, and encourage best practices to empower agencies to invest in the best IT tools and services.”

IT Priorities

OMB’s role in maximizing the impact of the funds and their efforts focus on applying “the appropriate level of strategic oversight to prevent duplication of efforts,” directing funds to their highest use, and ensuring coordination among agencies. “OMB calls together key stakeholders, promotes knowledge sharing, and provides strategic analysis of projects and progress,” the plan says.

For TMF, FCSF, ITOR, and individual Federal agencies, the current key priorities are:

  • Data as a strategic asset – “Driving key insights into the decision-making process by harnessing accurate, available, and actionable data to power intelligent Government operations and citizen experiences”;
  • Cybersecurity – “Bolstering cybersecurity by ensuring every Department and Agency is increasing the safety and security of public services, and implementing the requirements contained in the Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity, as well as the Federal Zero Trust Strategy”;
  • IT modernization – “Adopting modern technologies, employing methods of continuous  improvement, and scaling them across government to make government run more effectively and improve the delivery of trusted services”; and
  • Digital-First Customer Experience – “Using design and technology to deliver an exceptional customer experience for the American public that demonstrably meets user needs and is on par with today’s customer expectations.”

Vital Needs

The IT Operating Plan details several foundational elements for developing and advancing technology systems to drive toward those goals. Chief among them are:

Technical experts within the government that partner with non-tech program personnel “throughout program and project execution to ensure technology and the customer are at the center of processes from the start,” the plan says.

“Technical talent is essential to accomplish the mission and fundamental duties of the Government, while avoiding the risks that come with outsourcing,” it says, adding, “they also provide essential guidance and feedback to industry partners and contractors to ensure project requirements are met.”

“These experts include software engineers, IT specialists, product managers, designers, user researchers, acquisition specialists, and a host of additional in-house specialists whose expertise is required for building and iterating on technical systems and engaging key stakeholders to gain support for that work,” the plan says.

Another foundational element, the plans say, are “shared digital services, products, infrastructure, and channels enable agencies to create streamlined, consistent customer experiences across Government programs and services, and to benefit from economies of scale.”

“Strong, well-managed relationships with industry ensure the Government takes advantage of industry innovation and does not reinvent the wheel for existing technology,” the plan continues. “They can bolster existing technical capacity within agencies and provide both generalized and specific support, especially in the areas of widely-used commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products and operational technology (e.g., human resources systems, financial management systems, and cloud services).

The IT Operating Plan goes on to describe several case studies that show how TMF, FCSF, and ITOR can work together with Federal agencies to bolster each other’s efforts while avoiding duplication of effort.  These include the creation of the U.S. Web Design System in 2015, the creation of Login.gov in 2017, and recent identity modernization work at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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