Healthcare.Gov and FITARA: Connecting the Dots by Steve Krauss

As Washington hits the ‘spin cycle’ and everyone from technocrats to mainstream pundits start diagnosing the failures associated with Healthcare.Gov, one thing that should be abundantly clear is this: Everything that Washington does is an IT Program in some way, shape, or form. Or perhaps put more succinctly, everything Washington does relies on an IT program in order to achieve results. If architecting a major public policy program were like designing a car, there are a lot of people in Washington who would like to treat IT like cup holders. In reality, however, IT is a lot more like the wheels and axles the car runs on. As Healthcare.Gov illustrates dramatically, a “blow-out” or catastrophic failure in this area results in complete nonperformance of the program.

This truth becomes all the more important, however, when viewed through the prism of FITARA, the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act, which has been added to the defense appropriations bill in the House and, just this week, in the Senate as well. The bi-partisan sponsors of FITARA claim that it seeks to complete the reforms that were envisioned by the 1996 Clinger-Cohen Act by centralizing more authority, including budgetary power, into the hands of the department CIO and strengthening government-wide strategic sourcing efforts.

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