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President Signs Issa-Connolly Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act

Bipartisan legislation overhauling how the federal government purchases, implements, and manages information technology is now law. Read more.

Bipartisan legislation overhauling how the federal government purchases, implements, and manages information technology is now law.  

The legislation -- co-authored by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Oversight Government Operations Subcommittee Ranking Member Gerry Connolly (D-VA) -- was included as Title 8 of the Carl Levin and Howard P. “Buck” McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015. President Obama signed the legislation on Friday.

The Office of Management and Budget estimates the Issa-Connolly legislation could save taxpayers $2.5 billion over the next fiscal year and $20 billion or more over the next decade by enhancing information technology (IT) capabilities and eliminating waste and duplication of services across government.

“Over the last several years, Chairman Issa and I have worked together to develop and pass the first major comprehensive reform of the laws governing how the federal government manages information technology since the 1996 enactment of the seminal Clinger-Cohen Act,” Connolly said.  “A lot has changed in the world of technology and in the federal government’s use of technology since that time, and the need to streamline and strengthen how government buys and manages technology is long overdue.“

Pointing to the frustrating rollout of the original website in 2013 and similar problems in 2005 when the federal government first unveiled its Medicare Part D website, which failed to function for the first three weeks after its launch date, Connolly said the bill would take major steps to fix the broken federal information technology acquisition process. 

“Quite frankly, the federal government has no idea what technology it needs, struggles to manage what it has, and consequently wastes billions of taxpayer dollars on failed IT investments. This not only wastes taxpayer dollars, but also jeopardizes our Nation’s ability to carry out fundamental constitutional responsibilities, from conducting a census, to securing our borders, to caring for our veterans in a timely and effective manner,” Connolly said.

“Effective federal IT procurement reform must start with leadership and accountability,” Connolly said. “There are more than 250 identified CIOs in the federal government, yet none possess the necessary authority to effectively manage IT investments. This has resulted in duplicative and wasteful IT spending and, in many cases, astonishingly poor performance.”

The Issa-Connolly bill ensures that reforms are adopted government-wide.  It gives broad authority over the budget, governance, and personnel processes for federal agency IT investments to Chief Information Officers at federal agencies and provides transparency so that the American public can go online and view accurate cost, schedule, and performance data for individual federal IT investments.

The Issa-Connolly bill, formerly known as the Federal Information Technology Acquisition and Procurement Act or FITARA (H.R. 1232), had previously passed in the House as a free-standing bill.  To ensure its passage before the end of this year, House and Senate leaders reached agreement to include FITARA in Title 8 of this year's defense authorization bill. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-DE) and Ranking Member Tom Coburn (R-OK) worked closely with Issa and Connolly to refine and strengthen the final version of FITARA that was included in the Defense act. 

One of the simpler, common sense changes in the bill would require development of an enhanced government-wide software purchasing program that agencies may use to lower acquisition and management costs.

Other provisions of the Issa-Connolly legislation include:

  • CIO Authority Enhancements - Give civilian agency CIOs more authority over the budget, governance, and personnel processes for agency IT investments. One central CIO in each agency shall approve the appointment of any other component-level CIOs within the agency. This, along with the corresponding empowerment of the CIO in the Department of Defense, will significantly enhance agency CIOs across government.
  • Data Center Consolidation - Require more than 9,000 Federal data centers to be consolidated and optimized to achieve greatest usage, efficiency, and cost savings as recommended by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. 
  • Portfolio Review - Require agencies to annually review all IT investments to eliminate the type of duplication and waste that was exemplified in budget submissions for Fiscal Year 2011, where agencies reported 622 separate human resources IT systems at a total cost of $2.4 billion and 580 financial management systems at a total cost of $2.7 billion.
  • Transparency & Risk Management - Make agency IT investments more transparent to the public and require agencies to review troubled IT investments at high risk for failure.
  • Government-wide Software Purchasing - Require development of an enhanced government-wide software purchasing program that agencies may use to lower acquisition and management costs.
  • Acquisition Workforce – Require agencies to develop and deploy specialized IT acquisition cadres, which are interdisciplinary teams comprised of highly-skilled program and project managers, contracting personnel, and technology experts.
  • Strategic Sourcing - Require proper consideration of the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative (FSSI) by contracting personnel to encourage the government to purchase through enterprise-wide contracts that leverage the purchasing power of the entire Federal Government to lower administrative burdens for contractors, while achieving lower costs for taxpayers

“There are no quick fixes or legislative silver bullets that will magically transform a federal IT acquisition process designed for the 20th Century to meet the growing technology demands of the 21st,” Connolly said.  “But our bipartisan FITARA bill provides the blueprint, the right incentives, and most importantly, the legislative authority, to help the federal government accelerate the process of modernizing and enhancing federal IT systems so that they function with maximum efficiency and effectiveness.”

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