My husband and I are planning a vacation to Disneyworld, an awesome destination for our five year old dreamer. How do we budget for such an grandiose trip? As family budget authorities, we are looking at ways to decrease our household spending in order to make this trip a reality. In a similar fashion, NASA is also looking at ways to decrease ‘household’ spending in order to journey to “Tomorrowland”.
NASA Leadership had been meeting the spirit of the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) as early as October, 2014. NASA Senior Executives across core business areas (Information Technology, Procurement, Human Capital, Budget, and Strategic Infrastructure) were tasked with “…establish(ing) a more efficient operating model that maintains a minimum set of capabilities AND meets current and future mission needs.” To address FITARA requirements, NASA leadership established an Information Technology Business Services Assessment (BSA) process with some ground rules: Encourage divestment strategies for outdated and/or duplicative investments, and reinforce an enterprise approach for related services. Savings realized from these divestments and agency strategies were to be used on gaps in IT services or emerging capabilities that were deemed core to the current or future mission.
This process was designed to focus on efficiencies while preserving a commitment to transparency and stakeholder input in order to make informed decisions throughout all phases of the process. The BSA documented and measured the current state of information technology, both in terms of resources and overall “capability health” when compared to internal and external requirements. A Business Services Steering Committee was established, and used the data to develop options, solicit stakeholder input, and ultimately provide recommendations to NASA’s Mission Support Council.
NASA's internal BSA process ran from December, 2014 through March, 2015, concluding with a “Recommendations Phase” that was largely built on the tenets of the new legislation. Many of NASA’s responses to the implementation of FITARA lie within the enactment of NASA’s new leaner, less complicated IT governance model as dictated by the MSC. This new governance promotes optimization while enforcing already sufficient policies that support each of NASA’s IT Programs. While FITARA recognizes an enhanced role for the Chief Information Officer, NASA is also increasing the authority of roles like the Chief Enterprise Architect and IT Program Managers in order to exercise greater influence in divestment/reinvestment strategies.
Smart people making smart decisions is something that comes natural to NASA. But, FITARA is the FastPass the Agency needed to move our efforts to the front of the line, without any nasty looks or finger pointing. Overall, a win for NASA and for the Federal Government.
Lori Parker leads NASA’s Capital Planning and Portfolio Management efforts in the Office of the Chief Information Officer. When not applying performance budgeting principles to NASA’s technology investments, Lori can be found building Lego castles with her daughter in Northern Virginia.