Government Information Technology Management: Past and Future Issues (The Clinger-Cohen Act)

Government reform and improved management of public resources have been a common theme in congressional policymaking over the past decade. This report provides an overview of the Information Technology Management Reform Act (ITMRA) of 1996, or as it is better known, the Clinger-Cohen Act. Although the Clinger Cohen Act is a combination of the Federal Acquisition Reform Act (FARA) and the ITMRA, this report focuses on the information technology procurement and management reforms only. At the time of its passage, ITMRA reflected a growing concern that the federal government was not prepared to successfully make the necessary information technology investments to streamline agencies and improve mission performance. The ITMRA repealed the Automatic Data Processing Act of 1965, or as it is better known, the Brooks Act. The goal of the Brooks Act was to reform federal information technology procurement by concentrating purchasing authority within the General Services Administration (GSA). However, prolonged acquisition cycles and rapid changes in technology eventually diminished the effectiveness of the "one-size-fits-all" approach of the Brooks Act. The major provisions of ITMRA include: eliminating GSA's role as the primary agency for setting policy and regulations for federal information technology procurement, mandating the creation of a chief information officer (CIO) in all of the major federal agencies, establishing goals and reporting requirements for the reduction of costs and increase in efficiency through improved information management, and creating two pilot programs ("Share-In-Savings" and "Solutions-Based Contracting") to test alternative acquisition approaches. Several years later some of these issues still have not been completely resolved. Agency efforts to follow through on the CIO provisions have been mixed. Non-competitive salaries, high turnover, organizational inertia, and budgetary control issues have been obstacles to implementation. The development of annual performance plans to evaluate the value of information management have been delayed due to measurement problems . In addition, little progress has been made to utilize the "Share-In-Savings" pilot program for information technology procurement. Some observers believe this is the result of an inability to measure baseline costs, poor project selection, and lack of agency incentives. Looking ahead, as Congress has become increasingly interested in the Internet and information technology issues, it is possible that some provisions of the Clinger-Cohen Act and closely-related new concerns may receive attention in the 107th Congress. Some of these issues include the use of reverse auctions to lower procurement costs, the possibility of creating a position for a federal CIO, and the potential need for chief technology officers (CTO) as interest in electronic government and the delivery of services to citizens via the Internet grows.