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FITARA: What You Need to Know

There are few things we do in our professional and personal lives today that aren’t supported by technology.

We have devices and apps that track our appointments, our health and our happiness. At work, routine tasks are becoming automated, and government is working to adopt more modern technology to support its employees and the citizens they serve.

But what happens when it takes agencies years to buy new technologies? What happens when multi-year IT programs deliver little to no capabilities for the intended users? Unfortunately, there are multiple examples across government.

In an effort to address these oversight shortfalls across government, Congress passed the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act in 2014. The law requires that department chief information officers (CIOs) be empowered to review and approve IT contracts, ensure projects are being developed in shorter increments and to root out waste and duplication in IT budgets.

FITARA isn’t the first crack at improving federal IT. Over a six-year period, GAO has made about 800 recommendations to the Office of Management and Budget and agencies to improve IT acquisition and operations. As of October 2015, only about 32 percent of those recommendations had been implemented. “It will be critical for agencies to implement the remaining GAO recommendations and the requirements of FITARA to achieve improvements,” GAO noted.

To ensure FITARA’s success at your department, there must be a widespread understanding of what the law means, what’s expected of various offices and divisions and how the law affects everyone from senior officials to rank-and-file employees.

This GovLoop guide is meant to help you better understand these key issues and use FITARA requirements to improve the way your agency buys and manages IT. The bulk of the guide is divided into four main challenge areas with tips to help you:

1. Communicate IT reform beyond the office of the CIO

2. Improve cross-agency collaboration around FITARA

3. Implement best practices

4. Heed lessons learned by other agencies

You’ll hear directly from the experts who play a role in making FITARA implementation successful at their agencies and across government. We’ve also included a primer with background information about FITARA, and a timeline that puts today’s IT reform efforts into perspective. Let’s start with a brief history of the road to federal IT reform.

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