DC Dispatch

T2 Touchpoint — July 10, 2019

Published biweekly as part of the FLC’s DC Perspective news content, T2 Touchpoint gathers updates from inside and around the technology transfer (T2) community. News is collected from agency publications, news sites, and DC-central organizations, with original sources, contacts, and links provided in addition to our streamlined synopses. For more information and Touchpoint-related inquiries, please contact dcnews@federallabs.org.

Budget Bulletin

Inside the OMB’s Budget Guidance Circular for FY 2021

Late last month, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released an updated Circular A-11, “Preparation, Submission, and Execution of the Budget.” This update concerns upcoming funding requests for fiscal year (FY) 2021 as FY 2020 is being discussed in Congress. Updates to this regular memorandum include the following T2-related items.

  • Section 280 highlights customer experience. In line with developments such as the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF), which heavily focuses on updating customer experiences for IT-related agency projects, A-11’s new section 280 concerns how the agencies can improve these facets to facilitate better service delivery. Section 280 organizes best practices and reporting requirements to aid both agencies with standard IT functions as well as high-impact service providers (HISPs). HISPs have the most IT services available to the public, and thus have more reporting and data submission requirements to gauge organization/accountability, program maturity, data collection and metrics, and delivery improvement. HISP or not, every agency governed under this circular will need to self-assess its customer experience solution by January 31, 2020, and submit a follow-up action plan by March 31.
  • Introducing Technology Business Management (TBM). Circular A-11 includes a new accounting framework to link agencies’ IT investments to their strategic goals. TBM was introduced as part of the President’s Management Agenda (PMA). According to the Chief Information Office (CIO), TBM is tied to 7 key “plays” in order to make “good decisions in every aspect of agency technology.” These tenets instruct agencies to identify key IT players and stakeholders; determine the current state of data collection and aggregation methods; identify measurable desired outcomes; start collecting and aligning data; look for insights in the data; start the adoption of these efforts, and finally keep maturing the TBM implementation.

Circular A-11 is available to review in full here.

Policy Pulse

NDAA Passes Senate with AI and Cyber Monies Increased

When we last checked in with the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2020, the Senate version was still pending approval. The Senate version has passed with some cybersecurity and artificial intelligence (AI) provisions not present in the House chairman’s mark.

The Senate bill requires Pentagon top brass to coordinate additional cybersecurity efforts while increasing congressional oversight of IT investments, and also allocates $600 million to cybersecurity and AI research and development (R&D). Besides the budgetary line item, Pentagon officials would also need to create guidance and best practices to migrate agency data and programs to the cloud in order to support AI usage and efficacy. These AI systems will need to have transparent documentation and frameworks to compete with those being built by China and other leading-edge technology centers.

These Senate-exclusive portions may end up the final bill as the NDAA awaits a full chamber vote.

Bill to Revamp IRS Customer Experience Passes Congress

In other customer experience news, the Taxpayer First Act is awaiting presidential signature in order to direct the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) toward a “comprehensive customer service strategy.” According to the bill, this strategy focuses on upgrading “online services, telephone call back services, and training of employees providing customer services.” This follows a 2018 standing-up of a mobile-friendly agency website, and the IRS2go mobile app and its associated issues. Despite these IT investments, the IRS has received Customer Experience Index scores that rank its services among the worst—in both private and public sectors.

The Act requires the IRS to create a milestone-featuring a roadmap to strategize IT efforts and improvement strategies for the next FY, three years, five years, and ten years. Across these timelines, the IRS is required to quantitatively measure and report progress toward updating services, training materials, and workforce mobilization activities.

The Taxpayer First Act is available in full here.

Agency Activities

OMB’s Data Center Optimization Initiative Gains Steam

In 2016, the OMB released its Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI) to outline agency consolidation, optimization, and reporting requirements in order to streamline data collection, storage, and proliferation in the federal enterprise. As part of a Memorandum for Chief Information Officers of Executive Departments and Agencies, the OMB updated the DCOI. Part of the reason for this revision stems from recent development to the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA). We reported that FITARA “requires several (but not all) federal agencies to provide the OMB with a comprehensive inventory of data centers, strategies to consolidate and optimize them to ensure maximum cost savings, and quarterly progress reports on their changes.”

The first major execution of this FITARA requirement is prohibiting any agencies from expanding or constructing new data centers, instead directing the focus to optimizing existing data centers, especially those that are larger and mission-critical. FITARA reporting requirements have also been defined and retooled. Agencies are required to report metrics for virtualization, advanced energy metering and server utilization, as well as annual inventories and operating costs of data centers.

The updated DCOI can be read in full here.

DC Dispatch