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CIOs receive low marks on IT reform report card

Kenneth Corbin | Nov. 11, 2015
Nearly a year after the sweeping FITARA overhaul took effect, agencies continue to struggle in areas like risk reporting and data center consolidation, but lawmakers acknowledge IT reform is a work in progress.

But it cuts both ways. Powner is far less generous in his assessment of how CIOs have been reporting moderate- or high-risk IT projects to the online dashboard that tracks government spending on technology.

By their latest self-evaluations, government CIOs identified just 160 major IT projects that were at risk of running behind schedule, over budget, or were otherwise imperiled. Agencies rated 76 percent of their IT projects low-risk, a rosy assessment that Powner says belies the actual state of affairs.

"These totals are nowhere near reality given the troubled IT acquisitions of the old, antiquated legacy systems the government has," he says. "CIOs need to be more transparent and accurate in this area, and our ongoing work will show that many of these CIO ratings are not acknowledging risk appropriately."

Lawmakers were generally sympathetic to the challenges that agency tech leaders face in remaking their IT operations. Even if initiatives like data-center consolidation are happening more slowly than they would like, committee members acknowledge that the report card they issued is only a preliminary evaluation, explaining they envision it as a prompt that will spur agencies to action.

"This scorecard is not intended to be a juridical, prescriptive exercise. It should not be considered a scarlet letter on the back of a federal agency," says Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), one of the authors of FITARA.

"It is," he says, "an initial assessment, a point-in-time snapshot, much like the quarterly report card one might get from the university or at a school. The intent isn't to punish or stigmatize -- it is in fact to exhort and urge agencies to seize this opportunity and use the scorecard as a management tool to better guide decision making and investments within the agency."

"To me the real measure will be six months or a year from now, did we really move the needle on these things?" says U.S. CIO Tony Scott.

Hurd concurs, and closed the hearing with a warning to the federal CIO community: "If we're not seeing movement, I think these conversations are going to grow a little bit more uncomfortable."


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