Congress

Chaffetz worries about reliance on legacy IT

Jason Chaffetz

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah)

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said IT at the Department of Homeland Security is a big issue for him, particularly the amount of money spent on legacy systems.

"IT is probably my biggest concern," Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said on Jan. 7 at the Brookings Institute in Washington.

Chaffetz asserted that the continued use of outdated operating systems and computer languages -- some dating back to the 1950s -- add to low employee morale.

"Technology is supposed to make life easier," he noted. Modernizing is difficult, but necessary, he said.  "Nobody wants to turn off the machines and fire up the new ones. And I don’t have an easy solution for that."

At the Transportation Security Administration, Chaffetz said, there have been "hundreds of millions of dollars of equipment" purchased that aren't working as advertised.

IT is not the only concern for Chaffetz, though.

"I worry about the management of the government," Chaffetz said at the packed morning event.

DHS has a "deep-seated cultural problem," he said. "They’ve gotta be able to fire the bad apples and take care of the ones that do great work."

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has answered questions from reporters on this matter, in particular with regard to the Secret Service. At a press briefing shortly after last year's papal visit to the United States, he said the success of Pope Francis' visits to Washington and the UN General Assembly in New York were testaments to that agency's effectiveness.

"I don't believe any other agency in the world could have done this," Johnson said at the time -- though he acknowledged the turmoil at the Secret Service, and noted that it takes time to turn a "large ship in a different direction."

Chaffetz and other congressional critics are less patient, and critical of the efforts made so far to change the agency culture. (Chaffetz's own personal information from a previous job application was circulated within the service to people lacked the need or permission to see it.)

"It’s a constant battle with Homeland Security," Chaffetz said.

About the Author

Aisha Chowdhry is a former staff writer for FCW.


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