modernization (alphaspirit/Shutterstock.com)

USDA CIO points to cloud progress in pushback on FITARA score

After receiving low grades on the recent Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act scorecard, the Department of Agriculture pushed back, pointing to its progress on cloud migration and consolidating the number of data center and networks in use. 

Before a House panel, USDA CIO Gary Washington said the current grade on its IT investment portfolio is not "reflective of the progress we've made."

He said while about five to 10 percent of USDA systems are in commercial cloud, another 40 percent of systems are "cloud-ready," and "before 2020, we plan to significantly increase that number." Washington added that his agency has "to date in 2018" closed 18 data centers, and plans to reduce the number of networks from 17 to four by 2020.

USDA was docked a full letter grade from its final score because its CIO does not report to the secretary or deputy secretary level, something the agency said it would alter by the time the next FITARA hearing comes around.

Dave Powner, head of IT issues at the Government Accountability Office, said this reporting structure "is critical to carrying out [CIOs'] responsibilities… and will help to attract more qualified individuals to these positions over time."

The hearing was held jointly by IT subcommittee and the Government Operations subcommittees of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Building capacity using the authorities in the Modernizing Government Technology Act also formed a part of the latest round of FITARA scores.

Lynn Moaney, USDA's acting chief financial officer, testified while the department does not plan to create a new IT modernization working capital fund, it has received the okay from the Office of Management and Budget to put MGT funds in its existing working capital fund "if we track it separately."

Powner said, "establishing these funds is critical, so savings can be reinvested in agency IT priorities."

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter

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