DC Meltdown & Role of EA in establishing ‘Accountability’ in Federal IT Spending

By Srinidhi Boray

As the Wall Street melts down, so does the DC. One quick survey and it will yield how lacking many big institutions are. Catering to the IT market are bandied many large IT vendors. It is a cartel, that systematically eats out the tax payers money. The federal spending on IT system runs into Billions and Billions of Dollars. Check out http://www.usaspending.gov/.  It is a systemic parasitic process. Large institutions like FDIC, etc have intentionally avoided any systematic process that would render the IT related spending into accountable and transparent scheme of works. Instead, they relied on process that would create obfuscation with the hope that their actions would go buried deep in the morass that complexities inherently would introduce.

In the federal sector, The Clinger Cohen Act was established to bring in greater accountability in addition to several other things.  Importantly Enterprise Architecture is the medium to be used for creating transparent plans. At FDIC at least in spirit if not in letter, policy was established to follow Federal Enterprise Architecture as the basis for IT Planning. But in order to allow unfounded agendas to progress unhindered by the accountability requiring process, internal circular was issued allowing them to cast aside the Federal Enterprise Architecture based mechanism that would bring the IT expenditure under the purview of OMB. The contentiojn was that they are not a federal agency but a quasi-federal enterprise, that functions like a private corporate. Similar such ham-handed approaches were taken at Fannie and Freddie.  Hundreds and Millions of Dollars have been spent on IT touting modernization and transformative efforts. And, what do we see in the end? 

Link to Campbell Brown’s article on CNN

“”What’s amazing to me is that the administration seems a little surprised that Congress and the American people are not marching in lockstep with them on this and not fully appreciating the urgency.

Well here’s why, in one word: accountability.””””


Going forward, that now Fannie and Freddie have directly come under Federal administration, hopefully accountability creating systematic process will be established based on the Federal Enterprise Architecture guidance, should they survive as behemoths.

Enterprise Architecture an Effective Tool to Defeat Obfuscation

Art of Abstraction in the Investigational Architecture work – Defeating the Devious Art of Obfuscation

Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework based on Zachman’s EA Framework, Capital Planning and Investment Control along with Enterprise Architecture Transition Planning provides a mechanism to establish ‘Line Of Sight’ (LOS). LOS operates to substantiate the architectural decisions including the budgetary to investment decisions. These help in exposing all the architectural elements, that other-wise lie buried beneath the organization’s enterprise architecture. Based on the exposed architectural elements and the transparent architectural design decisions, the Office Of Management and Budget (OMB) (http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/) makes budgetary decisions and also evaluates agencies expenditures, while also recasting the expected budgetary concerns. Furthermore, these lend into U.S. Government Accountability Office. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is known as “the investigative arm of Congress” and “the congressional watchdog.” GAO supports the Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities and helps improve the performance and ensure the accountability of the federal government for the benefit of the American people. GAO’s work includes oversight of federal programs; insight into ways to make government more efficient, effective, ethical and equitable; and foresight of long-term trends and challenges. GAO’s reports, testimonies, legal decisions and opinions make a difference for Congress and the Nation.

In theory FEA, OMB, GAO – All work together in ensuring that millions to billions of dollars spent is put into worthwhile cause for the citizens, and that they are enacted based on scientifically planned decisions. This is an interlocking discipline that brings economics, management, strategy, planning, architecture, technology, sociology etc into a dynamic structure within the Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework. Leveraging such a discipline, it is also possible to analyze and identify attempts for obfuscation that is rampant in industry both in the private and the public sector. When millions of dollars are involved, along comes the frailness of humans.

Also, there exists Inspector General’s Office http://www.oig.doc.gov/oig/ , http://oig.hhs.gov. There are several such offices for each Agency, where anyone suspecting fraudulent practices or doubtful decisions can lodge a complain anonymously. Do all these work? Government is by the citizens and for the citizens. It is the duty of the citizens to make it work. So, the answer is when ‘will’ among the people emerges then the system will certainly work. There are many failed examples or systemic breakdowns. Veteran Health administration is one such example. Besides natural entropic conditions, the vile of the human (both in corporate and federal) has contributed to the systemic break-down. And, unfortunately innocent citizens bear its burnt.

In the information age, information from the information superhighway is inundating, also providing much opportunities for obfuscation to be schemed and fraudulently exploited. All such things are planned in the hope of escaping in the morass, until they are discovered by an analytical process. Obfuscation is the biggest evil in the information society.

Enterprise Architecture Framework, especially the Federal Framework in theory has the hope to promote analytical arguments for facilitating any modernization planning enabled by Information Technology and in tackling the emerging monster – Obfuscation.

Non-actionable thoughts are impotent Thought Leadership.