Legacy fund already having impact

Federal CIO Tony Scott  (Photo: Robert Severi for FCW) 

U.S. CIO Tony Scott said there is bipartisan support for modernizing federal IT systems.

Even if a multibillion-dollar IT modernization fund does not gain congressional approval, the proposal has already affected the way lawmakers and federal agencies think about technology, according to the government's top IT executive.

"You have to know where you are and what you've got" before you can modernize federal IT or improve any system, U.S. CIO Tony Scott said at ACT-IAC's IT Modernization Forum on Oct. 13. "That's critical for not only this administration, but the next."

He added that the Obama administration's proposed $3.1 billion IT modernization fund, a version of which has passed the House, has spurred agencies to hone their modernization business cases. Beyond what should be replaced, officials are now thinking about how new systems could support their agencies' missions and how those systems would interact with the overarching federal environment. The administration's initial proposal is part of the Cybersecurity National Action Plan.

The Modernizing Government Technology Act of 2016 does not appropriate new money but instead authorizes working capital funds at the 24 agencies government by the Chief Financial Officers Act to drive IT modernization and bank the savings achieved from retiring expensive legacy IT and shifting to managed services. It also authorizes a governmentwide revolving fund to be run by the General Services Administration.

Scott said the $3.1 billion attributed to the fund in the past is not appropriated money, "which is a problem."

Even if the bill goes nowhere, he said the Office of Management and Budget is using the plan as an impetus to develop guidance for agencies on how to deal with legacy IT. A "State of IT" report and accompanying guidance to be released in the coming weeks will provide more fuel for the shift away from legacy technology.

"I hope [the 'State of IT' report] will serve as a starting point for what the priorities are in the next administration, whether we get the modernization fund or not," Scott added. "CIOs have to create more of a demand signal for what needs to be replaced. Frankly, we haven't done a really good job at that. We haven't said, 'Here's how old it is, here's how big it is, or here's how much of it there is, or here are the risks associated with it.'"

IT and business managers are having discussions about enterprise risk management, an approach that is being more widely adopted, Scott said.

"If you're the head of an agency, you already have a comprehensive idea of what the risks associated with legacy systems are for your agency," he added.

Scott said he remains optimistic that the modernization fund will make it through Congress. "This is a bipartisan effort," he added. "There is universal agreement that this issue needs to be addressed."

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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