A Whole New Ball Game

By law and regulation, Congress and the Clinton Administration want to change the way agencies think about, buy and use information technology. Here's how:

Capital Planning - IT investment decisions must be integrated with budget and financial decisions. Before making IT investments, agencies must perform cost/benefit analyses, report the expected return on investment, identify benefits to and impacts on other agencies and develop performance measures.

Performance-Based Management-The Office of Management and Budget will manage the government's IT portfolio, balancing the risk, return and governmentwide effect of every investment. As part of each year's federal budget, OMB will report to Congress on net program performance benefits resulting from major IT capital investments.

Competition-Agency heads also must report annually to Congress on efficiency and effectiveness improvements gained using IT. OMB will compare agency IT performance reports. Based on these reports, OMB can recommend reductions and/or increases in agency budgets or designate an executive agent to hire a contractor to manage the agency's information resources or IT acquisitions.

Purchasing-The Brooks Act is repealed. The General Services Administration is no longer the central authority for IT acquisitions and agencies are free to buy what they want as long as they comply with governmentwide standards. The General Accounting Office will hear IT bid protests once lodged with GSA's Board of Contract Appeals. The Office of Federal Procurement Policy will run pilot programs testing alternative approaches to IT acquisition.

Modular Contracting-Major information systems investments should be made in increments as narrow in scope and brief in duration as possible.

Chief Information Officers-Agency heads are to name CIOs responsible for budget-linked capital planning and performance management of IT systems. CIOs will report directly to agency heads, whom they will advise whether to undertake, continue or terminate IT investments.

CIO Council-A group made up of agency CIOs will make overall federal IT policy, share best practices, and set hiring and professional development standards for information management.

Government Information Technology Services Board-Agency experts-especially in crosscutting fields such as electronic benefits and commerce, law enforcement, defense, health care and environmental protection-will promote National Performance Review IT recommendations, seek opportunities for cross-agency cooperation, develop governmentwide IT standards and create interagency "affinity groups" focused on business areas with similar IT or customer requirements.

Information Technology Resources Board-Agency IT and acquisition experts will assist agencies and OMB by assessing how agencies develop, buy and manage major IT systems. The board will publicize lessons learned and seek input from industry, academic and state and local governments.

IT "Swat Teams"-Presidential technology teams, groups of IT experts from across government, will be available to work for six to 18 months with individual agencies on particularly knotty IT problems. Team members gain experience, agencies get extra help.

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