A panel of federal executives immersed in implementing policies laid out in FITARA – the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act – say the law is really helping them move ahead with data center consolidation.
Speaking at the MeriTalk FITARA Forum March 30, Richard Coffee, the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) associate CIO for enterprise data center operations, said federal data center managers who are focusing on changing from managing their own centers to providing services through cloud and hybrid solutions, are supportive of the law.
This is a sentiment with which Walt Bigelow, Chief of IT Systems, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, agreed.
“The federal government has historically gotten really good at building silos,” Bigelow said. “The whole FITARA and data center consolidation [requirement] is forcing us to work together, talk together, discover we really aren’t all that unique.”
He said the agencies within the Justice Department, including BATF, are doing better at leveraging what they have in common in order to provide better services. He added that cyber security is improving because of the agencies’ convergence on common applications. “We’re getting better services and lower costs,” he said.
Joel Dolisy, CIO at SolarWinds who works with federal IT teams on data center consolidation and operations noted that “FITARA helps federal CIOs and their teams focus their efforts and reinforce that the IT team is an essential business partner that brings tremendous value to the agency and is fundamental to mission success.” Dolisy added “while mandates are often seen as just another checkbox, FITARA is one that is actually being embraced because it is helping agencies make important IT transitions that CIOs wanted to make, but had previously lacked support. The scorecards and regular check-ins with Congress are keeping agency CIOs on track.”
Joyce Hunter, USDA’s deputy CIO for policy and planning, touched on this point during her presentation at the FITARA Forum. “We present the business value to the component agencies, how it’s going to make their lives easier,” she said. “Many CIOs don’t want to have to manage … infrastructure kinds of things, [but] to have a more strategic view and deliver on the mission of their agencies. When we present how they’ll be able to deliver better, perhaps redeploy some of their employees [to] other projects,” they can make a consensus decision on a course of action.
John Raymond, director of the policy and planning staff at the Justice Department (DOJ), said DoJ does not yet have the systems it needs to be able to make good decisions about consolidation. It’s “the inadequacies of the financial system itself,” he said. In terms of cost-saving opportunities, “we don’t have good insight.”
On the other hand, Raymond said, his office has found that his component customers are willing to engage. They know their IT is old, and they know they can get much greater capabilities through the new initiatives, he said.
When an audience member asked the panel if they had concerns about losing momentum over the next year because of a change in administrations, Bigelow said no. Members of Congress are “getting the technology and understanding it to a great extent, and [they’re] willing to drive forward and push the government in that direction.