DOT CIO freezes IT spending

Transportation CIO freezes IT purchases

A key provision of the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act makes agency CIOs accountable for all IT purchases. How that works -- and exactly what counts as IT -- is still a subject of some debate. However, Department of Transportation CIO Richard McKinney is not waiting for clarification. In early December, he issued a memo freezing all department IT purchases for at least 90 days.

"We've got to be more deliberate about what we're doing," McKinney stressed at a Dec. 9 FITARA event in Washington, D.C., sponsored by Meritalk.   Until the CIOs of DOT’s component agencies can deliver a comprehensive IT spending plan, he said,  “I'm not going to approve any IT purchases."

That memo generated “quite the conversation,” McKinney said, but a good one.

McKinney has put together a tiger team to gather a baseline understanding of DOT’s IT infrastructure at each component agency, a perspective he explained is missing.

The challenge is not just getting components CIOs to detail their IT purchases. Rather, CIOs have difficulty determining what was being spent. According to McKinney, IT acquisition within DOT has been going on without component CIOs’ knowledge or discussion.

McKinney stressed that in order to ensure FITARA’s success, he needs real data. “We need to have ways of measuring our cost that are real.”

And only then does McKinney believe the program will drive down cost and drive up performance, cementing FITARA and addressing the internal pockets of resistance. “If we can do that and be successful, we won’t have to flash our badge. People will line up because it’s in their self-interest to do so,” he said.

McKinney also wants component-agency CIOs to understand that FITARA can strengthen not only his hand, but theirs as well, by giving them an opportunity to work more closely with their agency’s leaders.

“For me success will be when I can have real substantive business discussions with the leaders of the agency … I think its really important that all the business units understand their cost, so that we can make these decisions together.”

Put simply, “We are what we buy,” McKinney said. “If we want change, we've got to start there.”

About the Author

Amanda Ziadeh is a former reporter/producer for GCN.

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