Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA) is, in the simplest terms, the enterprise architecture which describes a federal government. Enterprise architectures (EAs) are essentially systems of management practice that strive to align resources so that business performance can be improved and core strategic functions can be better executed.
In the case of government, an EA helps an agency or department carry out their core missions by describing their current state and their likely or desired future state - and lays out a plan for transitioning from the former to the latter. In practical terms though, FEA generally refers to the enterprise architecture of a specific federal government; the US Federal government, which developed FEA to provide a common methodology for the acquisition, use and disposal of Information Technology (IT) assets and infrastructure.
The ultimate goal behind the design of the FEA initiative is to make the sharing of information across federal agencies as easy as possible by establishing a common, inter-operable standard for data storage and access, thereby reducing costs and improving the service to the citizens of the United States. In part, it was created due to the 1996 Clinger-Cohen Act - passed by congress to reform and improve the way Federal agencies deal with IT resources. In effect, Clinger-Cohen provides that government IT acquisition and management should be just as efficient and profitable as the operations of a successful private business.
However, it took some three years until the Federal council of Chief Information Offices - the position responsible for IT management within a Federal agency - developed an official framework which could transcend multiple inter-agency boundaries when establishing an FEA. This was the Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework, which partitioned any given enterprise architecture into separate business, applications, data and technology architectures and created the foundations of any future FEA work.
In effect, the FEA is a construct built through the use of an assortment of different reference models to ensure that a common taxonomy and ontology is used throughout the Federal government when describing IT resources and their functions. These different models include the process reference model (PRM), the business reference model (BRM), the service component reference model (SRM), the data reference model (DRM) and the technical reference model (TRM). Each of these are used to embody a different basic goal or concept and provide a framework for improving it, creating a shared taxonomy and recognisable standards to measure existing and proposed EA against, as well as ultimately by creating clear roles and responsibilities for staff to implement FEA within an agency.