Federal employees and managers don't have much confidence in the latest IT reform legislation and many believe it will be more hindrance than helpful, according to a new survey by the Government Business Council and Dell.
The survey polled more than 420 federal employees to get their thoughts on the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA), the most significant legislation on federal IT operations in 20 years.
Download: FITARA: The Path Forward
Far more respondents said they have a favorable opinion of FITARA than not — 28 percent to 8 percent — though the vast majority — 64 percent — said they had no opinion at all.
Survey respondents were more decisive when it came to talk of budgets. Only 10 percent were "confident" or "very confident" the legislation would reduce budget overruns, with 24 percent saying they were "somewhat confident." A commanding 41 percent said they were "not confident at all."
As it says in the name, the main goal of FITARA is to improve the IT acquisition process. But only a slim margin of respondents think it can accomplish this, with 37 percent stating the law will lead to "major" or "modest, incremental" progress while 29 percent said it will have no impact or actually make things worse.
The problem, according to some, is the restructuring of CIO authorities inherent in the legislation.
"FITARA is good in theory," one respondent said. "But the burden it has placed in terms of meeting requirements and delaying projects due to review processes has had real negative implications on the ground."
A central push of the legislation was to give department-level CIOs more authority over their own budgets and staff, as well as those of component agencies downstream. However, some respondents noted this could be just as harmful as helpful.
"Our department CIO has used this as a blatant power grab and defensive maneuvering by my subagency has resulted in large decreases in IT functionality and productivity," one respondent commented.
"The advantages of FITARA are entirely dependent on the skill, experience and interest level of the CIO, which seems quite variable," another said.
Overall, 30 percent said the hierarchy established by FITARA will have a "positive" or "very positive" impact on their agency, while 13 percent said "negative" or "very negative." The majority — 58 percent — said it likely won't have any significant impact at all.
At the same time, 41 percent said they hope FITARA will "make CIOs more accountable to overall IT effectiveness."