Agencies stumble on old and new FITARA requirements

The two metrics most damaging agency scores on the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act scorecard are the consolidation of data centers and agency software licensing, a new metric for this iteration of the scorecard, according to Government Accountability Office Director of IT Management Issues Dave Powner.

“Progress [in software licensing] was clearly not enough, given that this was a major component of FITARA and followed up with the MEGABYTE [Making Electronic Government Accountable By Yielding Tangible Efficiencies] Act,” said Powner. “Another area where significant progress needs to be made is optimizing data centers.”

The FITARA scorecard was first released in 2015 as a metric to measure agency success in modernizing their IT infrastructure and realizing savings. The first scorecard had four evaluation categories — data center consolidation, IT portfolio review and savings, incremental development and risk assessment transparency. The software licensing category is the first truly new category to be added since the scorecard’s inception.

According to Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, software licensing scores were largely responsible for the high number of decreased scores and low number of increased scores.

“Since the last scorecard, 3 agencies’ grades increased, 15 agencies’ grades stayed the same, and 6 decreased. If software licensing were not included, 8 agencies grades would have increased, 14 would have stayed the same, and 2 would have decreased,” said Hurd. “Though 17 agencies received an ‘F’ on this new metric for the FITARA Scorecard 5.0, it is worth noting that each of these agencies has efforts underway to create and use an inventory of software licenses.”

“Six months ago when you previewed this area with scorecard 4.0, only three agencies had completed reports. Now seven do, and six of these seven report savings in this area,” said Powner.

However, Powner said that the large number of failures in software licensing was difficult to justify.

“The software licensing, I’m having a hard time understanding that. We did a report four years ago and told agencies that they should get software licenses,” said Powner. “I think it’s inexcusable that we do not have software licenses for this at this point in time.”

The next FITARA scorecard will also include a new evaluation section for agencies to contend with. The Modernizing Government Technology Act, which has passed the House and Senate as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, enables agencies to form working capital funds that extend the usability of savings realized through IT modernization for three years. The establishment of such funds will, according to Hurd, be a part of the next round of evaluations.

“For Scorecard 6.0, a measure of whether agencies have established working capital funds as authorized by the MGT Act, which I was pleased to see included in the final NDAA, will be made a part of the scorecard,” said Hurd. “Ultimately, I’d like to see the scorecard evolve beyond FITARA implementation, to more of a digital hygiene score for agencies.”

“It’s certainly a very straightforward request, to recapture savings. The challenge is identifying those savings and getting them captured and moving them over,” said Alison Doone, acting chief financial officer for the Department of Energy.

Agencies are still struggling with the longstanding scorecard requirement to consolidate their data centers, which, according to Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., is a key component to the overall mission of the FITARA legislation.

““In August, GAO released a report that found that as of April 2017, 17 of 22 agencies with agency-owned data centers were not planning to meet the data center optimization metrics established by OMB,” said Connolly in his opening statement. “This is troubling because until agencies improve their optimization progress, OMB’s $2.7 billion initiative-wide cost savings goal may not be achievable.”

“I think the data center optimization [caused struggles] because we added, the metrics category there, which was based on savings, and that was added at the request of a lot of folks,” said Powner, adding that 19 agencies who were doing poorly under that metric were a “big reason that the grades went down.”

Connolly was particularly critical of the Department of Energy’s goal to close only 11 of their over 200 data centers in the next year.

“Eleven is hardly a stretch goal,” said Connolly, explaining that agencies have to set ambitious goals if they’re ever going to make a difference in their number of data centers.

“Across the federal government I think the numbers are disappointing, across the DOE I think they’re very disappointing,” said Department of Energy CIO Max Everett.

In fact, the United States Agency for International Development, the only agency to receive an overall “A” on the scorecard, received its worst grade, a “B,” on data center consolidation.

Everett said that he needs “different skillsets” in his workforce to move from data centers to the cloud, the most direct way to increase data center consolidation. However, he added that he is looking for areas to “rip the Band-Aid” and move quickly to the cloud.

According to the GAO FITARA report, five of the 24 agencies — the Department of Commerce and the Environmental Protection Agency, National Science Foundation, Small Business Administration, and U.S. Agency for International Development — have plans to fulfill their data center targets by the end of the 2018 fiscal year, and 13 plan to meet some but not all of their targets.

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