The Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) has issued final guidance (the “Guidance”) implementing the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA).  We have previously discussed FITARA’s requirements that seek to reform and streamline the Government’s information technology (“IT”) acquisitions, which account for approximately $80 billion in annual spending.

At its core, the Guidance implements the mandate of FITARA to increase the involvement and responsibility of agencies’ Chief Information Officers (“CIOs”) in IT procurement and management.  According to Tony Scott, the United States Chief Information Officer, the Guidance also “position[s] CIOs so that they can reasonably be held accountable for how effectively their agencies use modern digital approaches to achieve the objectives of effective and efficient programs and operations.”  Indeed, although CIOs may delegate some of their decisions concerning IT resources to other agency officials through CIO Assignment Plans, the Guidance makes clear that CIOs remain accountable and must monitor those to whom they delegate decision-making authority.

The most noteworthy development in the Guidance is the establishment of a set of basic requirements—the Common Baseline for IT Management (the “Common Baseline”)—that agencies must implement by December 31, 2015.  The Common Baseline details various roles and responsibilities for the CIO and other agency stakeholders in the budgeting, planning, procurement, and management of IT resources.  The Common Baseline requires an agency CIO to:

  • Coordinate with the CFO and Chief Acquisition Officer in the planning, programming, and budgeting stages of IT resources;
  • Review and approve the major IT investments in agency budget justifications and initial budget submissions;
  • Share procurement responsibilities by reviewing cost estimates of IT-related costs in IT acquisitions and ensuring that acquisitions adequately account for incremental development principles; and
  • Report to the agency head in carrying out the responsibilities established by IT acquisition reform.

By August 15, each agency must complete a self-assessment to determine whether it meets the Common Baseline requirements and create an implementation plan detailing the steps that it must take to ensure compliance by the end of this year.  Notably, the implementation portion of the self-assessment will be publicly available after approval by OMB. Following the initial self-assessments, agencies must perform annual reviews and updates to their self-assessments to ensure ongoing compliance with the Common Baseline.

In addition to implementing the Common Baseline, the Guidance integrates FITARA’s requirements into existing OMB programs, including PortfolioStat, the Federal IT Dashboard, and the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (“FDCCI”).  For example, the Guidance explains that agencies must continue to provide updates regarding their implementation of the FDCCI.  In addition, the Guidance details the process for FY2015 PortfolioStat review sessions, which will now occur on a quarterly, rather than annual, basis and will continue to focus on consolidating and eliminating duplicative IT resources and ensuring that IT acquisition aligns with the agency’s needs.

Over the next year, according to Scott, we “can expect to see a major push from OMB to leverage the implementation of FITARA . . . [and implement] stronger approaches to the acquisition and management of commodity IT and data infrastructure[.]”  In addition, as we have previously discussed, GAO continues to emphasize IT procurement reform by adding IT acquisition to its list of high risk programs and highlighting the ongoing struggles for reform in this area.  In light of this growing momentum for IT acquisition reform, the contracting community would be well-advised to continue monitoring developments in this area.  In particular, contractors should review the implementation portion of agencies’ self-assessments when they are released this Fall to evaluate any changes agencies plan to make to IT acquisitions and should also monitor OMB’s plans for what Scott refers to as “commodity IT,” a controversial term not used in the final version of FITARA.