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HHS Releases IT Strategic Plan for 2017-2020

The Department of Health and Human Services recently became the first agency to release an information technology strategic plan since the enactment of the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA).

The plan assesses where the department stands with its use and management of IT and outlines how it will improve by 2020. HHS spends more than $11 billion annually on IT, so insight on the strategic vision is critical.

The five main strategic goals for the department across these next four years are:

  • IT workforce
  • Cybersecurity and privacy
  • Shared services
  • Interoperability and usability
  • IT management

The first goal, IT workforce, focuses on acquiring, deploying, and sustaining an IT workforce. HHS will work on effectively forecasting IT hiring needs; streamlining the hiring and onboarding process; branding HHS as an IT employer of choice; retaining the workforce; and expanding IT education for non-IT employees. One example of how they plan to work toward this goal is the IT Cybersecurity Workforce Development Program Pilot. Through this pilot, HHS is using the National Institute of Standards and Technology framework to identify cybersecurity competencies and develop the workforce to meet these competencies.

The second goal, cybersecurity and privacy, focuses on protecting critical systems and data. HHS will work on improving the security and privacy standards of data and IT systems; rapidly responding to emerging threats and vulnerabilities; and prioritizing investments through categorizing risks.

The third goal, shared services, focuses on accomplishing missions by sharing business systems. HHS will work on better communicating shared services available; balancing service cost and quality; and promoting strategic procurement options. One example of this in action is the NIH Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center (NITAAC), which awards three Government-Wide Acquisitions Contracts (GWACs) for IT for all of HHS.

The fourth goal, interoperability and usability, focuses on promoting data sharing and integration. HHS will work on improving data management across HHS via a department-level dashboard; improving cost-effective data exchange; and expanding user engagement with IT resources.

The fifth and final goal, IT management, focuses on refining IT management to improve IT investments and acquisitions. HHS will work on updating processes to reflect new government policy; improve project management to refine IT delivery; and streamline IT reporting processes. One example is, post FITARA, HHS is reinforcing CIO authority at the department and operating division levels, acknowledging that acquisition decisions are made at many levels within the agency.

HHS will work on these five goals across a number of stages. The first stage, “strategize,” is completed with the publishing of the IT strategic plan. The next stage, “formulate,” will involve tactical planning and identifying the groups working on each goal. The final stage, “execute,” will see each group taking the tactical plan and putting it into action–seeing results against all goals by 2020.

The plan was released weeks before President Donald Trump, today, released his first proposed budget. In this budget, he cuts HHS funding by 18 percent, from $84.1 billion to $69 billion. More than 33 percent of the cuts would affect the National Institutes of Health, and excludes funding for Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

“The budget includes a major reorganization of NIH’s institutes and centers to help focus resources on the highest priority research and training activities,” according to a document prepared by the Office of Management and Budget.

It is yet to be seen how these budget cuts will affect the HHS strategic plan and any prioritizing of goals moving forward.

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