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Progress And Pain With Federal Plan

Seven months into the plan to reform federal IT management, seven major agency CIOs gave updates on recently on their progress around key initiatives.

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Tech process needs attention, Commerce's Szykman and others say.
Tech process needs attention, Commerce's Szykman and others say.
Seven months into the Obama administration's 25-point plan to reform federal IT management, seven major agency CIOs gave updates on recently on their progress around key initiatives including TechStat project reviews, data center consolidation, and cloud computing. But they also noted some big obstacles delaying progress, such as lack of budget flexibility and the need to expand CIO authority.

Numerous parts of the plan, which is widely supported by federal agencies, have already been addressed. The Office of Personnel Management, for example, recently announced it's creating an IT program management job track, which should help the government attract and develop IT program managers.

With the data center consolidation effort, agencies have identified managers to lead the efforts, launched a consolidation task force, and recently created a dashboard and map to track consolidation progress. The government has also made a shift to a cloud-first policy, in which agencies must consider cloud options alongside traditional ones when it comes to tech acquisition. Agencies also have each identified three services to move to the cloud within 18 months.

Data Centers Closed

Beyond task forces and dashboards, they've actually closed some data centers: six in the Department of Commerce, 10 in the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Justice Department will close two this year. Justice plans to move IT capital planning application, storage for U.S. Attorneys, and email at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to the cloud this year, and HHS has shifted its grants management system to a cloud-based infrastructure.

TechStat reviews are meant to look at troubled projects, and their use has led to several changes, despite Congress not funding the effort at requested levels. The National Weather Service added an on-site project manager and more subject expertise to its Next Generation Weather Radar project. HHS is now requiring monthly status checks on a newly overhauled project plan for upgrading its human resources systems. And the Department of Energy has improved governance over an identity management project by creating an integrated program team and hiring a dedicated project manager.

But the 25-point plan has failed to make progress in other areas. For example, it expected to have security certification completed by now for the General Services Administration's infrastructure-as-a-service contracting system that is intended to let agencies choose from a list of offerings without complicated procedural steps.

Federal CIO Vivek Kundra also has admitted that the White House is behind in working with Congress to extend CIO authority and improve the tech budgeting process. Many agency CIOs manage highly federated organizations and lack authority over overall agency IT operations and budgets. The tech budget process has also been criticized as too long and inflexible. "Because IT requires a multiyear planning process," says Commerce CIO Simon Szykman, "there is an inevitable lag in the ability to change major programs."

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