A major piece of IT acquisition reform legislation called the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (“FITARA”), on which we have previously reported, was included in version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 (“NDAA FY 15”) passed by the House on December 4, 2014, along with other significant IT reform provisions related to open systems requirements for the Department of Defense (“DoD”).

The FITARA portion of the bill includes provisions that would require the federal government to:

  • empower Chief Information Officers (“CIOs”) and prevent the CIO from delegating the duty of reviewing IT contracts before the agency enters into the contract;
  • provide a publicly available list for each major information technology investment, both new and existing, that lists information specified in forthcoming investment evaluation guidance;
  • engage in a detailed review of high-risk information technology investments to identify problems;
  • inventory all information technology;
  • implement a federal data center consolidation initiative, which will include publicized goals regarding cost savings and optimization improvements to be achieved as a result of the initiative, and must be performed consistent with federal guidelines on cloud computing and cybersecurity such as FedRAMP and NIST guidelines;
  • expand the use of specialized IT acquisition experts;
  • develop a federal strategic sourcing initiative to be developed by GSA, which will allow for the use of governmentwide user license agreements.

Additional provisions require the use of open and modular strategies by the DoD, including the following requirements for the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics:

  • submit a report to Congress detailing a plan to develop standards and define architectures necessary to enable open systems approaches in key mission areas of the Department of Defense if the Under Secretary determines such standards would be feasible and cost effective;
  • review acquisition guidance to ensure that acquisition programs “include open systems approaches to product design and acquisition of information technology systems to the maximum extent practicable” or else provide a “written justification” in the contract file if an open system approach was not used;
  • submit a report to Congress that identifies all information technology systems in development or deployed status that are not using an open systems approach, identify any gaps in architects or standards necessary to enable open systems approaches, and outline a process for “conversion to an open systems approach” for identified systems one year after the enactment of the bill;

The bill defines an “open systems approach” as “an integrated business and technical strategy that (A) employs a modular design and uses widely supported and consensus-based standards for key interfaces; (B) is subjected to successful validation and verification tests to ensure key interfaces comply with widely supported and consensus based standards; and (C) uses a system architecture that allows components to be added, modified, replaced, removed, or supported by different vendors throughout the lifecycle of the system to afford opportunities for enhanced competition and innovation while yielding—(i) significant cost and schedule savings; and (ii) increased interoperability.”

A “joint explanatory statement” released by the House and Senate Armed Services committees critiqued the DoD’s acquisition practices, signaling concern with the amount of funds spent to sustain legacy IT systems. The joint statement also indicates that DoD isn’t doing enough to take advantage of commercial technology and methods. “Ideas such as agile development, the use of clear requirements tied to software development timelines, rethinking the processes for capital planning and investment . . . are prevalent within the commercial sector, but often face resistance and hostility from government program managers and contracting officers,” according to the joint statement.

The Senate is expected to debate the bill this week.