Senate Considers FITARA for the First Time

Erica R. McCann photo

The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs today will be marking up H.R. 1232, the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act, or FITARA. It’s significant because it is the first time the Senate will formerly consider the House’s signature acquisition reform bill.  What remains to be seen is how similar the Senate’s marked-up version of the bill will be to FITARA.  

Chairman Tom Carper (D-DE) and Ranking Member Tom Coburn (R-OK) are expected to introduce a substitute amendment during today’s Senate mark-up.  The new amendment replaces most of the language that FITARA’s main authors have been refining for the past two years, and redirects the bill’s main focus away from federal information technology (IT) acquisition reform.  The substitute amendment focuses instead on eliminating duplication and waste in federal IT investments. A section of FITARA that sought to restore and enhance federal chief information officers’ (CIO) authority is retained but with significant modifications and new accountability requirements, along with another section focused on government-wide software licensing.  The data center provisions of FITARA are also gone, replaced with provisions drawn heavily from the Bennet/Coburn bill S. 1611, the Federal Data Center Consolidation Act of 2013

For those of you keeping score, this means that only two of the twenty plus sections included in the House-passed version of the FITARA bill will advance today. 

The IT industry has been a very active participant in the development and introduction of FITARA since its inception, offering comprehensive praise and critiques of a bill that sought to reform the way that the federal government bought its information technology. 

Today’s mark-up is no exception and the IT Alliance for Public Sector (ITAPS) has weighed in with a letter to the committee expressing our appreciation for the bill’s advancement in the Senate and outlining areas for improvement. We continue to support the provisions of the bill that give CIO’s increased decision making authority in their agencies’ IT procurement, and the provisions that help to drive efficiency in government by consolidating data centers. We oppose, however, sections of the substitute amendment that call for a government-wide software purchasing program reliant upon the unproven strategic sourcing models and single-user enterprise license agreements. We also oppose the language that limits the government’s ability to generate cost savings by arbitrarily focusing on software in its IT portfolio review. 

ITAPS also questions what will come of smart policy provisions in FITARA that are dropped entirely in the Carper/Coburn amendment. In our letter, ITAPS recommends that the Committee add back in sections that align with the mission of addressing duplication and waste. These sections include promotion of cloud technologies, flexible funding mechanisms, website consolidation, and improvements to the federal IT acquisition workforce. This language has had unanimous support from the IT industry throughout the lifecycle of the bill’s evolution, and it would be a shame to see such important provisions not advance in the Senate. 

No one bill will provide a complete solution to the challenges we face with federal IT acquisition today. Throughout FITARA’s evolution, however, the bill has always included language that would help address some of the underlying issues that plague the current system. We hope to see those provisions advance and look forward to the improvements we can expect from their success.  

 

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