Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is proposing the first major rewrite of the laws governing federal information technology since 2003.
The Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act would codify much of the Obama administration’s 25-point IT reform plan. The draft bill, which Issa, the chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee released today for discussion, would go even further in attempting to address long-standing challenges for agency chief information officers.
“The chairman is near the beginning of a process of gathering wide stakeholder input,” said a committee staff member. “He has not indicated any timelines for introduction yet.”
The bill would require agencies to have only one CIO, and all bureau-level senior IT managers would become deputy CIOs. The bill also would give CIOs budget authority over all IT spending and over all hiring of IT personnel.
“We applaud Chairman Issa for his recognition that there needs to be a substantial improvement to federal IT procurement practices to keep pace with evolving technology,” said Mike Hettinger, director of the Public Sector Innovation Group for the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), in an emailed comment to Federal News Radio. “As SIIA has said previously, we share the goal of developing a cadre of specialized IT acquisition personnel and are pleased that the bill acknowledges that cloud computing is becoming mainstream in the federal government.”
Data centers, cloud and websites
Many of the draft legislation’s provisions follow closely the efforts started by the Office of Management and Budget in December 2010 to reform federal IT management.
For example, the bill would codify the government’s efforts to consolidate data centers. It would require the federal CIO to submit a plan to Congress within six months of the bill becoming law and once a year after that on how to implement the data center initiative. The plan should “address floor space, energy use, infrastructure, equipment, applications, personnel, increases in multi-organizational use, and other appropriate methods to meet the requirements of the initiative; and appropriate consideration of shifting federally-owned data centers to commercially owned data centers.”
Issa’s bill also focuses on cloud computing, website consolidation and strategic sourcing-all OMB priorities.
It requires agencies to use, to the maximum extent practical, a governmentwide service to certify and accredit cloud services. This effort is known as FedRAMP, which the General Services Administration, the Defense Department and the Homeland Security Department launched in January.
The bill calls for OMB to assess public websites and figure out which are duplicative and then requires agencies to eliminate them. OMB kicked off this effort in June 2011, and in December, the .gov Reform Task Force submitted a report on the state of federal websites.
A majority of the bill focuses on IT acquisition and the IT acquisition workforce, calling for the codification of several White House initiatives.
Most notably, the legislation takes the use of business-case analyses for new multiple-award contracts one step further. The Office of Federal Procurement Policy in September 2011 set new rules that agencies must submit for review by other departments any new multiple-award contracts.
OFPP would approve MACs
The bill would require agencies proposing a MAC worth more than $50 million over the life of the program to submit a business case to OFPP for approval.
OFPP also would also be required to submit a report by June 1 of each year to Congress summarizing the submissions, reviews, approvals and disapprovals of business case analyses.
Trey Hodgkins, senior vice president for TechAmerica’s Global Public Sector Government Affairs, said the association has been briefed on this proposal and believes it opens up a critical conversation.
“Our industry thinks the procurement process is broken and that this proposal starts a conversation that will hopefully lead to the kinds of wholesale change we saw in the mid-90s,” he said. “We are still assessing the specifics of the bill and have no position on the details yet.”
Issa also wants to expand the concept of IT acquisition cadres-as called for in the 25-point review plan-to become acquisition centers of excellence.
The bill calls for OMB, the Chief Acquisition Officers Council and the CIO Council to designate acquisition centers of excellence within one year. These organizations would promote best practices, provide acquisition assistance, and development and training for the IT acquisition workforce.
Most interesting is the requirement for agencies to consult with a center on any technology procurement worth more than $5 million.
New training fund
Along those same lines, the legislation would create an IT Acquisition Management Improvement Fund, which would be managed by GSA and funded by taking 5 percent of the fees collected by governmentwide acquisition contracts and the GSA schedules.
GSA and the Federal Acquisition Institute would use the fund to improve the training of IT acquisition workers.
OMB also would have to submit an annual report to Congress on the current status of the development, strengthening and deployment of information technology acquisition cadres.
Additionally, OMB would establish the Federal Commodity Information Technology Acquisition Center “to serve as a focal point for coordinated acquisition practices and to obtain lowest costs for the government in the acquisition of commodity IT”
The bill calls for the center to take six steps, including assessing the governmentwide IT acquisition capability, aggregating demands for commodity IT and overseeing governmentwide software licenses rights.
OMB would have to issue guidance on how the center would work, including defining commodity IT, reorganizing or eliminating govermentwide contract vehicles that are overlapping and describing the circumstances for mandating use of certain IT acquisition vehicles.
Issa is calling for a governmentwide spending analysis on software products or services to support decisions for strategic sourcing under the Federal strategic sourcing program. OMB also is to identify and assess the use of commodity IT in agencies and create a uniform classification system for commodity IT within 180 days.
Issa’s counterpart on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Comittee, Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), “hasn’t had a chance to review the bill in full,” said Leslie Phillips, a spokeswoman for the committee. “But he shares the same goal of improving IT acquisition, and looks forward to working with his House counterparts to find ways to innovate federal IT and save money.”
Francis Rose is the host of In Depth, which airs weekdays from 8-10 a.m. on 1500 AM in the Washington, D.C. metro area and online everywhere. Francis has covered all three branches of the federal government as a broadcast journalist since 1998. He joined Federal News Radio in 2006, and launched In Depth in 2008 as a daily show focused on connecting federal executives to the information they need to do their jobs better.