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House Oversight takes DoD to task for failing FITARA scores

June 13, 2017 (Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
The most recent FITARA scorecare landed with a resounding thud on June 13, as most agencies either saw little improvement or, in some cases, drops in compliance since their last evaluation.

Only four agencies improved since the last information technology assessment in December 2016, the biggest swing coming from USAID, who turned its previous D+ grade into an A+ in the new assessment.

The lack of improvement is thought to be tempered by the transition of a new administration in addition to new grading guidelines implemented for Scorecard 4.0 — including using Office of Management and Budget data center optimization metrics as part of its data center grade.

But the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee turned its ire toward the only failing agency on the scorecard, the Department of Defense.

“The Committee reduced DoD's grade due to a lack of transparency on IT spending,” said Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, chairman of the Subcommittee on Information Technology.

“DoD appears to have reclassified a significant percentage of its IT spending as National Security Systems, which are not covered by FITARA. This lack of transparency is unacceptable.”

Dave Powner, director of IT management issues at the Government Accountability Office, said that the DoD moved $15 billion in IT spend to the classified National Security System, which has an exemption to FITARA reporting.

“To have $15 billion magically appear under that umbrella doesn’t seem right,” he said.

The committee members agreed and promised to take the agency to task for the move, which many deemed as a skirt around transparency.

“We are being asked to fund DoD above the $603 billion that the president has requested,” said Rep. Mark Meadows, R-NC. “Take the message back to them that unless they get their heart right on this, there will be no support for increasing that.”

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., a co-sponsor of FITARA, echoed the sentiments, saying that the displeasure toward DoD spread across party lines, especially compared to the agencies that improved their scores.

“All of us agree, on a bipartisan basis, to insist that they improve their performance, that they come into compliance like every other federal agency,” he said. “And the burden on them is even greater because they have the dollars.”

Other agencies, like Health and Human Services, remained stagnant overall, despite showing improvement in categories like improving the authority of its chief information officer.

HHS has also made progress toward its data consolidation goals, but hasn’t shown savings because Deputy Assistant Secretary and acting Chief Financial Officer Shelia Conley said the money went right back to bolstering other IT projects.

“In many cases with these data center consolidations, we have gaps in IT spending, meaning that there are things we need to do within our IT portfolio,” she said. “Often times, those savings realized through data consolidation and modernization efforts are plowed back into those respective systems and infrastructure to provide things we know need to be done.”

HHS officials said they expected to see improved scores in the next 12 to 18 months. 

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