The Pentagon no longer has a failing grade for technology acquisition, by a slim margin, receiving a “D+” on the latest version of a congressional scorecard that showed overall improvement across federal agencies in software licensing management and cost savings from data center consolidation.

DoD’s latest grade on the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) scorecard is its best since December 2016, while still receiving “F’s” for Chief Information Officer software development authorities, a review of its IT portfolio and data center optimization initiatives.iStock Cyber Lock

Federal agencies joined DoD in improving their FITARA performance since the last scorecard in May, with 11 agencies increasing their letter grade, 13 remaining the same and none receiving a drop in letter grade for the first time.

Congress enacted FITARA in 2014 with the goal of pushing agencies towards prioritizing IT acquisition and security reform by grading against a series of metrics.

DoD CIO Dana Deasy testified to lawmakers following the release of the previous scorecard, offering the Pentagon’s failing grade was due to a lack of consolidated authority around his position and the slow pace to consolidate data centers (Defense Daily, May 23).

At a joint House IT and Government Operations subcommittees hearing Wednesday, lawmakers pressed a GAO official on the agency’s findings behind the overall improvement while reporting a lagging effort to make use of new working capital funds for IT modernization and continue closing data centers.

“For 7.0, this has been the strongest showing by far for the agencies. For the first time ever there has been no F’s, and I think that’s tremendous,” Carol Harris, GAO’s director of IT management issues, told the panel.

Harris said the number of “A’s” for software licensing doubled over the last year from eight agencies to 18, with GAO expecting $714 million in savings government-wide from optimization efforts.

On data centers, agencies have collectively closed 7,300 data centers over the course of FITARA resulting in $4.5 billion in savings.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), ranking member on the Government Operations subcommittee, said the cost savings from consolidation are a positive sign while citing a continued slow pace and failure to meet goals to close more data centers.

Six agencies reported they failed to meet goals closing tiered data centers, and nine reported failing to meet those for non-tiered data centers, according to Connolly.

“That doesn’t sound like robust progress to me,” Connolly said. “The goal here, in the law, is to consolidate them, move to the cloud and effectuate savings. If the part about agencies not making their progress on meeting their goals is true, that’s savings left on the table. And it’s also inefficiency not addressed.”

Harris said agencies can continue to improve grades by ensuring their CIO reports directly to the senior leadership, establishing a working capital fund to reinvest savings and having a complete software license inventory.

“If each agency did these three things, report to the agency head, establish a working capital fund and have a complete software license inventory, the grades would be 5 A’s, 15 B’s, 4 C’s and not a single D or F,” Harris said. “These three actions and associated higher grades are achievable by the next scorecard.”