Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) discusses the prospects of the MGT Act's centralized modernization fund actually getting funded for fiscal year 2018 and how agencies can maximize the working capital funds.
With the Modernizing Government Technology Act signed into law, the bill's chief sponsor, Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), will add its oversight to his duties as chairman of the IT Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. However, that the $228-plus million called for in the law — and proposed in the White House budget — for a centralized modernization fund will be appropriated for fiscal year 2018 is no guarantee.
Hurd spoke with FCW's Chase Gunter on Dec. 14 about MGT and other federal IT priorities. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
FCW: How do you feel about the chances appropriators will approve money for the centralized fund?
Hurd: "Well, there's discussions ongoing. It was included in the president's request, but the legislation hadn't been done — the bill that moved from the House didn't include it. But I still believe the meat of the bill is the working capital funds. And that's something that we're going to be working towards to make sure within a year, we have a handful of agencies using them.
FCW: What are the obstacles? What are appropriators' hangs-up about the centralized fund?
Hurd: Well I don't think there's hang-ups. It's just the appropriations process happened before this got signed into law. And now with the negotiations of a potential omnibus or additional CRs, there's bigger, more basic conversations that need to be had like agreeing on top-line numbers."
FCW: What are you doing to help nudge them to include the appropriations in fiscal year 2018? Is the White House pushing them?
Hurd: "There's such a big conversation going on right about how we get the appropriations process beyond the CR that getting down to the nitty-gritty on writing some of the bills — we're not at that point to have those kinds of conversations yet. But there have been conversations by the [Office of American Innovation and Office of Management and Budget], and our office, with the relevant appropriators over time. "
FCW: What's the response in those conversations?
Hurd: It's, you know, 'we're aware, thank you.' And again, this is not the appropriate time to be pushing it because it's hard to — this is a difficult negotiation. And the negotiators are dealing with much broader issues right now.
FCW: When it comes to the working capital funds, what sorts of projects or activity do you see agencies being able to use them for, even without the centralized fund?
Hurd: "Well the first thing every CIO should be looking at is 'how do I transition to the cloud?' Not only because it makes sense and it's smarter from a business practice, but it allows the savings are realized, that stuff can be put be immediately put into a working capital fund. We've already seen billions of dollars in savings from other agencies that have already done this. That would be a good first step.
The other step would be getting the right technology and to understand what kind of software licenses you have. And whether there's an ability to reduce redundancy there. And that's a quick opportunity to save money."
FCW: Do you think specific agencies will get any help financially as they start to scrape dollars together for their own agency-specific accounts to kickstart the modernization effort?
Hurd: The goal is not to — so, the intent of the bill was never to have the centralized fund putting money in the working capital funds. The goal was that centralized modernization fund, it's for projects for agencies that don't have the ability or haven't been focusing on modernization. So I think when an agency demonstrates they can put money into their working capital fund, that's showing they have a culture of modernization, and that's going to be something that continues — that's going to be the gift that keeps on giving.
FCW: And to ask a non-MGT-related question — on net neutrality: any thoughts on the vote to repeal in general?
Hurd: I think this is an issue that actually more people agree on than people think. Nobody supports throttling and things like that. Instead of having these regulatory bodies, it may be time for Congress to weigh in on this with legislation, making clear those kinds of behaviors are not going to be accepted.