Technology Toolbox

Laws and Regulations

To understand how Congress and the Clinton Administration expect you to proceed, you'll need at least a passing acquaintance with the following laws and regulations:

  • 1990 Chief Financial Officers Act requires the financial management practices and systems necessary for tracking IT costs and spending.
    See Born Again Financial Management (May 1996)
  • 1993 Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) focuses agencies on defining their mission and goals, measuring and rating performance and reporting results using the budget process.
    See Time To Get Cooking On GPRA (July 1996)
  • 1994 Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act (FASA) and 1996 Federal Acquisition Reform Act (FARA) remove bureaucratic barriers to timely and efficient technology purchases.
    See our acquisition guides in the Procurement section of the Web site.
  • 1995 Paperwork Reduction Act lays out the need for strategic planning for information resources management and for linking IT decisions with mission needs. It also compels agencies to reduce information requirements on citizens and, in concert with the Information Technology Management Reform Act, should help agencies make sure the information they collect is used by other agencies.
    Available on the Web
  • 1996 Information Technology Management Reform Act (ITMRA) makes agency heads and program managers, with the help of chief information officers, responsible for making performance-based IT investments that support reengineered work processes. ITMRA applies GPRA's performance requirements to information technology investments.
    Key points available on the web.
  • OMB Circular A-11 governs how agencies make their annual budget estimates and is being revised to include guidance on capital planning for IT investments. A new supplemental section, Part 3, "Planning, Budgeting and Acquisition of Fixed Assets (including IT) was issued in 1997.
    Available on the Web
  • OMB Circular A-130 governs the use and collection of federal information resources and is being revised to reflect changes caused by ITMRA.
    Available on the Web
  • OMB Director's April 4, 1996, Memorandum on ITMRA (96-20) gives agencies preliminary guidance primarily about the CIO provisions of the law.
    Available on the Web
  • Executive Order 13011, July 16, 1996, "Federal Information Technology," spells out agency heads' responsibilities under ITMRA and explains the duties of the CIO Council, Government Information Technology Services Board and Information Technology Resources Board created under the law. Federal Register Vol. 61, No. 140, July 19,1996
    Available on the Web
  • Federal Information Resources Management Regulation (FIRMR) updates give notice that the regulation was abolished as of Aug. 7 at midnight and explain where authority resides to continue some of its useful components such as FTS 2000.
    Available at IT Policy OnRamp

IT Management Guides

Lucky for neophytes, federal agencies have produced the following guides for managing information technology, measuring its performance and merging it with business process improvements:

  • GAO's "Executive Guide to Improving Mission Performance Through Strategic Information Management and Technology" has set the tone for every IT audit since its publication. It draws on private industry's experience to come up with 11 best IT practices. Get this guide and use it if you hope to survive scrutiny by congressional auditors. GAO/AIMD-94-115, May 1994.
    Available on the web
  • "Evaluating Information Technology Investments" contains the OMB Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs' step-by-step process for creating an organization that can take full advantage of IT investments. This publication was the basis for OMB's guide to capital planning for all fixed asset acquisitions for the fiscal 1999 budget process.
    Available on the Web
  • "Performance-Based Management: Eight Steps to Developing and Using Information Technology Performance Measures Effectively," is the General Services Administration's Office of Policy, Planning and Evaluation's contribution. The guide uses federal agency best practices to explain how to set and use performances for IT investments.
    Available on the Performance Pathways page of GSA's IT Policy On Ramp on the World Wide Web.
  • "Information Management Performance Measures: Developing Performance Measures and Management Controls for Migration Systems, Data Standards and Process Improvement" ($15) is another guide to devising IT performance measures. It was published in 1997 by the National Academy of Public Administration and is based on a study conducted for the Defense Department. To order, call (301) 617-7801.

Reports, Periodicals and Books

Here you'll find reports outlining the government's IT predicament, periodicals providing up-to-date IT overviews, and IT books geared specifically for managers and executives.

  • "Computer Chaos: Billions Wasted Buying Federal Computer Systems," a 1994 report by Sen. William Cohen, R-Maine, to the Senate Governmental Affairs oversight of government management subcommittee, spells out in chilling detail the sorry state of federal IT management.
  • "Information Technology Investment: A Governmentwide Overview" is the General Accounting Office's snapshot of overall federal IT spending and agencies' problem projects. GAO/AIMD-95-208 July 1995.
    Available through the Web
  • Government Executive: The magazine is described by many techno-savvy federal officials as a key source of timely information about emerging technology and case studies about how agencies are using IT. Government Executive publishes an IT section in most issues, a number of special IT supplements every year, as well as an annual "who's who" in government technology, "The Federal Technology Source." To subscribe, call (202) 739-8500.
    Available on the Web
  • Business Week: An excellent source of easily understood information about how private industry is using IT, the magazine also publishes a number of special focus articles and supplements on IT each year. To subscribe, call: (800) 635-1200.
    Available on the Web
  • Techno Vision: The Executives' Survival Guide to Understanding and Managing Technology, 1994, 198 pages, $19.95, McGraw Hill, N.Y. Author Charles Wang, CEO of software provider Computer Associates International Inc., is the guy behind those technology boot camps for executives called "The CEO in a Wired World." His book explores the disconnect between technologists and generalist executives and includes a handy, though slightly dated, guide to business technologies.
  • The Politics of Information Management, 1995, 554 pages, $49, The Information Economics Press, New Canaan, Conn. Paul Strassmann, former principal deputy assistant secretary of Defense for command, control, communications and intelligence, draws on his long business career and experience running DoD's corporate information system to explain why information management equals power. It's a curative for those who gloss over the "information" in "information technology."
    Strassmann, Inc.

On Line

This handful of World Wide Web sites offers a cornucopia of IT background material, publications and contacts.

  • GSA's IT Policy On Ramp contains a vast array of material, all of it of potential interest and use to the IT-curious manager. It contains a "hot topics" section, updated weekly, pages that look more deeply into specific subjects, such as reengineering and performance measurement. The "Performance Pathways" page contains pithy digests of GPRA, ITMRA and FASA.
  • A Business Researcher's Interests is a gateway to the Web sites of a huge number of articles, magazines, journals and experts on IT, covering such topics as reengineering, outsourcing, virtual corporations, Intranets and knowledge management. Yogesh Malhotra, an engineer and management consultant, created the site and regularly updates it. It's sponsored by the Association for Information Systems a professional group for information systems academics.
  • Association for Federal Information Resources Management (AFFIRM) offers the newsletter, IT white papers and membership information of AFFIRM, a nonprofit organization of federal, academic and industry information resources management professionals.
  • National Partnership for Reinventing Government. You'll want to keep up with Vice President Gore's group since many governmentwide IT initiatives are created or honed by the NPR. The site houses Gore's reinvention plans along with a good collection of agency case studies, especially on customer service improvements.
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