In Government Computer News, 10 December 2007, Edward Meagher, the deputy chief information officer at the Department of the Interior (DOI) asks why the federal government doesn’t have one IT infrastructure. He states:
“Despite the huge costs and inefficiencies, we still cling to the notion that each department and agency is so unique and special that we each have to create and maintain our own infrastructure to support our mission area.
I am convinced that a day will come when the billions of dollars we spend each year on each department’s stovepiped IT infrastructure will not only be viewed as incredibly wasteful but also incredibly stupid. It will be seen as the equivalent of having allowed each department to drill its own water wells, generate its own electricity and treat its own sewage.
The notion of a true “GovNet” has been around for many years, but I believe the time is fast approaching when we will agree on the terms and conditions and get about the business of designing, building, converting to, operating and managing a secure, unclassified IP network that will deliver all IP services to federal civilian agencies.”
What has the federal government done so far to advance the idea of one IT infrastructure?
An IT Infrastructure Line of Business (ITILOB) has been established as a Presidential Initiative as part of the President’s Management Agenda for e-Government (eGov).
The vision of ITILOB is:
“An effective and efficient IT infrastructure enabling government-wide customer-centric services.”
The goals of ITILOB are:
- “Infrastructure enables interoperability of functions across agencies and programs.
- Optimize the infrastructure to enable collaboration within and across agencies, sectors, and government levels.
- Efficiencies realized from infrastructure investments will be recapitalized in support of agency mission.
- Infrastructure investment governed to achieve agency mission and government-wide goals.” (http://www.whitehouse.gov/OMB/egov/c-6-9-ioi.html)
Are we on the road to success with ITILOB?
The ITILOB links to a related site http://www.itinfrastructure.gov/. It is not clear what the relationship between IT Infrastructure LOB and IT Optimization Line of Business (IOI) are. However, the IT Optimization LOB states that “The Infrastructure Optimization Initiative (IOI) puts in place a government-wide approach for measuring and optimizing agency infrastructures to enhance cost efficiency/service level and better enable core agency missions and customer-centric services. While the IOI provides the standardized framework for comparing performance across the federal government, departments/agencies remain responsible for choosing appropriate strategies for optimizing their commodity infrastructure cost efficiency/service level metrics. The IOI does not mandate how agencies optimize their infrastructure – it will provide tools for agencies to leverage.”
So, while it seems that the vision of one IT infrastructure or GovNet is a noble one and probably one worth pursuing, if done right; the mandate of the existing IT Optimization LOB does not go far enough to actually mandate usage by federal agencies. This makes this initiative rather weak and unlikely to succeed, in its current form.
Are there similar initiatives in the federal government?
DHS has an Infrastructure Transformation Program (ITP) that has been working for a number of years now at “consolidating and centralizing control of its data centers, e-mail systems and help-desk services, and sensitive but unclassified video communication networks under three directorates.” (Government Computer News, 22 August 2005)
Is this DHS infrastructure consolidation perhaps, a first step, where each major federal department (like DHS), starts by consolidating its agencies, and then moves on toward an overall federal consolidation. Possibly, this two phased approach would give the overall federal consolidation a greater chance for success.
Meagher at DOI states: “Congress, the administration, the federal bureaucracies and the vendor community must come together to tackle the impediments and move rapidly to create a well-managed, 21st-century equivalent of the Eisenhower-era National Highway System.” Will a federal IT infrastructure be as successful?