CIO programs face 1st hurdle
- By Kevin Powers
- Aug 11, 1997
As the Information Technology Management Reform Act turns one year old this month,
agencies are preparing to prove that their revised systems management programs can live up
to Congress' requirements.
Chief information officers face their first test this fall when they must use the new
funding and performance measures to argue for fiscal 1999 systems funds.
Since last August, when Congress enacted ITMRA, the government has pushed aside an IRM
structure that dominated for 30 years. Now CIOs must unveil their first capital investment
plans for the Office of Management and Budget.
"The agencies have been working to put in place sound capital planning and
investment controls," said Sally Katzen, administrator of OMB's Office of Information
and Regulatory Affairs. "But, in some respects, this is a new concept for agencies,
and we need to ensure that these requirements are met."
OMB officials said most agencies have created chief information officer organizations
in compliance with the law. Now agencies must prove they can parlay their IT investment
plans into actual systems that streamline operations and improve core services.
"Agencies have taken their responsibilities very seriously and have worked hard to
create the appropriate management structure. We've worked closely with them and are
generally pleased," Katzen said.
Under ITMRA, Congress created a decentralized IT management system by eliminating the
1965 Brooks Act along with all of the General Services Administration's IRM procurement
oversight mechanisms. The Federal IRM Regulation, agency delegations of procurement
authority, IRM program reviews and the GSA Board of Contract Appeals all fell by the
GSA has restyled itself as the government's computer commodities broker. To survive in
a post-Brooks world, it modernized the Multiple-Award Schedule program and broadened its
selection of IT fee-for-service programs.
OMB has promised to be tough on agencies during the coming budget planning for fiscal
1999. Katzen said OMB will continue to rely on its budget hammer to enforce ITMRA's
planning and performance edicts. With limited resources, OMB also is counting on the IT
Resources Board and Government IT Services Board to help push interoperability standards
and information policies.
As for specific ITMRA guidance, OMB director Franklin Raines has issued a series of
executive memos teaching agency chiefs how to draft capital investment plans and develop
The CIO Council also has issued several advisories on capital planning.
"The CIO Council has been a very useful forum for discussing issues and promoting
good management practices. It's helped agencies avoid reinventing the wheel and showed the
members strong support," Katzen said. "I've been very impressed by the council's
Year 2000 Committee and the capital planning reference documents."
Katzen said OMB has also kept close tabs on how agencies have constructed their CIO
Originally OMB officials were concerned that some agencies had not granted CIOs direct
access to top agency officials. But Katzen said those agencies that have not carved out
separate, high-level CIO posts have provided assurances that their CIOs will have
sufficient budget and planning clout.
"Many agencies have unique cultures and pre-existing management models that vary
from the law. But they can be just as efficient and productive," Katzen said.
"We've worked with the agencies to make sure that we're in agreement."
With GSA retired from the oversight business, many agencies have installed their own
versions of the old delegations system by creating internal IT review boards.
For example, Alvin Pesachowitz, the Environmental Protection Agency's CIO, said his
agency's Executive Steering Committee for IRM has reviewed 44 IT proposals worth more than
$100 million. Besides conducting the usual budget and systems checks, the committee has
kept agency officials focused on major cross-cutting issues such as the year 2000 date
"Senior EPA program managers are now, more than ever, asking the right questions
about IT investments," said Pesachowitz, who is also vice chairman of the CIO
Council. "Over the next year, we will be looking carefully at the costs to our
regional offices when national systems are deployed."
EPA also will solidify its capital investment strategy, he said. The agency will look
at the costs and other effects of its systems modernization efforts and how they will
affect future hardware and networking needs. Additionally, EPA will try to fine-tune its
internal charge-back rates for services that the central IT shop provides to EPA users,
Officials at the Health and Human Services Department have used ITMRA to set up CIO
management posts within each of the department's operating divisions. Neil J. Stillman,
deputy CIO and deputy assistant secretary for IRM, said the HHS mirror management units
have made it easier for department CIO John J. Callahan to coordinate agencywide policies
"The development of the HHS year 2000 program was enhanced by having the CIO
personally exercise control and institute reporting mechanisms which ensured departmental
organizations discovered the extent of the problem and undertook corrective actions,"
Also, the CIO was ultimately responsible for HHS' data center consolidation from 27
sites to four, he said. HHS estimates that the consolidation will save the department a
projected $57.3 million by 2001.
Mark Boster, deputy assistant attorney general for IRM and the Justice Department's
deputy CIO, said ITMRA's capital planning mandate has helped the Justice IT staff
establish plans for interagency systems initiatives and highlight emerging information
"This level of senior executive involvement in IT planning is unprecedented in the
department and reflects the growing recognition of how dependent we are on IT to conduct
our business," Boster said.
"Once defined, we will ensure compliance with the architectural standards through
the IT investment process," he said.
Despite the upbeat views of OMB and CIO Council members, many agencies still are
working to boost ITMRA awareness across their organizations and translate the law's
requirements into long-term policies.
"There is a continuing education process going on between the department and the
bureaus," said Tom Kingery, assistant IRM director at the Treasury Department.
"The Treasury CIO Council plays a major role in the education process and is the
forum where bureau CIOs can discuss any ITMRA issue," he said.
At Treasury, the CIO's office also has set up user seminars and other training
sessions, he said. The need to inform users about new policies and build consensus on
program will not stop, Kingery said.
Acting Transportation Department CIO Michael Huerta agreed. "Implementing ITMRA is
a work in progress," he said.
Transportation has given the CIO ready access to the secretary and the ability to
influence departmental IT decision-making, he said. But now, the department must institute
an integrated capital planning and investment process, Huerta said.
"We are also still working with other federal agencies and organizations to
determine appropriate performance measures for IT and to assess work force knowledge and
skills with respect to IT," he said.
The Defense Department has named a full contingent of CIOs and created a DOD CIO
Council for discussing ITMRA issues. But Defense Secretary William Cohen has said that the
military services still must embrace more changes in operating procedures before he will
consider them compliant with the law he helped write as a senator.
Many of the ITMRA guidance documents are available in electronic form at the CIO
Council's World Wide Web site at http://www.cio.fed.gov.