Home Government Programs Clinger-Cohen Act

Clinger-Cohen Act

Clinger-Cohen Act



What is the Clinger-Cohen Act?

The Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996, originally named the Information Technology Management Reform Act, updates and defines how the federal government may acquire and dispose of information technology.  This act passed in the National Defense Authorization Act FY 1996.  The legislation passed at a time when electronic records and computers were becoming more prevalent in government work and established a control and compliance structure that involves a dedicated Chief Information Officer for each government agency.

What is the function of a Chief Information Officer in the government, under the Clinger-Cohen Act?

The primary role of the CIO is to help facilitate and improve the function of government agencies with the use of technology while remaining conscious of limited resources and other mitigating factors.  The CIO helps the agency manage its resources by regulating spending on technology and assessing risks to the technological infrastructure.  Combined with amendments to the policies of the Paperwork Reduction Act, the CIO works to improve efficiency through the use of capital investment in technology.  Unlike a Chief Technology Officer, that develops new technologies, the CIO only examines improvement through the use of existing technologies.

What are the definitions established by the Clinger-Cohen Act?

Information Technology – this is any equipment or system that is used to store, manipulated, transfer, and display or receive data for an executive agency.  This includes computers, software, support services and ancillary computer equipment, such as hard drives.

Information Resources – personnel, equipment, funds and technology related to information technology

Information System – the infrastructure by which information resources are used to fulfill the role of information technology

Information Technology Architecture – the CIO uses this to determine the existing resources of an agency and the ways by which it can be improved.

What are the added roles to the Office of Management and Budget under the Clinger-Cohen Act?

As stated in Subtitle B of this Act, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (referred to as Director in the Act) is responsible for:

– Reducing information collection burdens on the general public and disseminating public information through the use of information technology.

– Tracking and assessing the risks of technological capital investments made by executive agencies.  These findings must be reported to Congress every year at the time the President submits the budget for approval to Congress.

– Developing standards for federal computer systems as expressed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

– Select certain members of government agencies to become “executive agents” for the acquisition of new technology.

– Encourage agencies to use and acquire technology more efficiently and adopt the “best practices” for their use.  The Director will also compare the use of technologies between different agencies to assist the heads of those agencies in increasing efficiency.

– To oversee training of employees in executive agencies in the use and management of information resources

– Report on the efficiency of executive organizations on the use of information technology to Congress and developments on information resources management

– Set the policy for the procurement and acquisition of information technology with the Office of Federal Procurement Policy.

What are the responsibilities of executive agencies in the Clinger-Cohen Act?

Section C dictates that executive agencies must develop a plan to assess risk and maximize the value of informational technology acquisitions.  This plan must include budgeting, acquisition process and information sharing among higher level executives with verifiable milestones and benchmarks of process set by the plan.  The Act specifically endorses a results-based management scheme with constant evaluation of the new technological acquisitions and improvements to the Information Technology Architecture.  The head of agencies must make provisions in the strategic plan for “significant deviations” in costs that occur while pursuing the goals of the program.

The key tenants of results based management, for the purposes of this bill are the establishment of the efficiency goals to improve the operation of the agency, prepare an annual report on the effectiveness of these goals, compare the goals with similar public and private organizations, relate the goals to the ultimate mission of the organization and lastly, ensure compliance with information security, procedure, and practices.

This section also provides the duties and requirements for Chief Technology Officers and specifically names departments that should have a CIO.  These departments include the Departments of Education, agriculture, Energy, Labor, State and many others.  The last provision deals with interagency support and allows agencies to pool funds for procurement, oversight and acquisition for joint efforts to support the mutual goals of technological improvement in the name of greater efficiency.

What is the process for the procurement of technology?

Section 5201, the section immediately following Subtitle E, describes the recommended processes for acquiring new technology.  Incremental acquisition through modular contracting is gradually acquiring “interoperable” systems gradually to improve the informational technology system.  Section 5301 grants agencies the ability to run up two pilot programs simultaneously, not exceeding 750 million in contractual obligations and no more than five years in length.

What is the relationship of National Security Systems with the Clinger-Cohen Act?

Section E of the Act is devoted to providing exemptions for National Security Systems administered by the Department of Defense.  The provisions of the Act still ensure the creation of a CIO position, management schemes, and capital planning as well as a mechanism for accountability.  Limitations on funding, contracts and other procedures however, do not apply.