GSA dismantles its IT Service

The General Services Administration is dismantling its
Information Technology Service and has put ITS chief Joe Thompson in charge of GSA's
internal systems strategies.


The move took place last month after the Clinton administration decided not to wait for
enactment of procurement reform legislation that would strip ITS of most of its
governmentwide oversight responsibilities.


Bruce McConnell, chief of the Office of Management and Budget's Information Policy and
Technology branch, said the administration would proceed with many of the procurement
reforms, whether or not Congress approves any legislation. The reforms call for vesting
OMB with much of the systems oversight responsibility that has been GSA's under the Brooks
Act.


The pending legislation would require all agencies to appoint CIOs with responsibility
for strategic IT management and capital investment. Thompson is set to remain GSA's CIO
with that charter.


All ITS units are undergoing audits for possible reassignment within GSA or to other
agencies or privatization.


"We've not decided the future of ITS core functions yet. But it will not be ITS as
currently constituted," Thompson said. "ITS under the Brooks Act had certain
operations, and those operations are not part of the CIO's duty."


Last fall the ITS policy shop was merged with other GSA offices to create the Office of
Governmentwide Planning, Policy and Leadership. It sets procurement and management
policies and identifies the best management practices.


The ITS Multiple-Award Schedule programs for computers and software was moved to the
Federal Supply Service, which already operated GSA's other MAS programs.


ITS contract service organizations within the Office of IT Integration may follow the
Multiple-Award Schedule program when it passes to FSS. The Office of IT Security, however,
might remain in a much sleeker ITS.


Several federal agencies, including IRS and the Veterans Affairs Department, already
have CIOs overseeing their IRM operations. But GSA officials said their CIO office would
be the first organized along the lines specified by Sen. William Cohen (R-Maine) in the
procurement reform measure.


Thompson and his staff will counsel GSA Administrator Roger Johnson and other top
agency officials on all internal technology matters including identifying troubled GSA
systems and developing recovery plans for systems behind schedule and over budget.


Thompson said his new role reflects the White House policy of treating IT systems as
strategic business investments to improve public services and modernize government
operations.


"This is classic re-engineering," Thompson said. "This office will look
at business objectives first. We're no longer managing operations, but we'll do investment
opportunities and guarantee returns on investment. The CIO is ultimately responsible and
accountable."


Among Thompson's primary CIO functions are multiyear capital planning, developing
performance measures, building an integrated GSA information architecture, defining and
enforcing protocols and standards for core IT resources and establishing GSA as a
"model of electronic government."


In addition, Thompson will serve as a member of GSA's new Business Technology Council
along with the GSA deputy administrator, commissioner of each service, head of each major
staff office and three regional administrators. The council will chart the direction of
GSA's IT investments.



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