Can small agencies piggyback on modernization plans?

Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

Small agencies are not included in a potential linchpin of federal IT modernization -- the Modernizing Government Technology Act, which would set aside money for agencies to move less secure legacy IT systems to the cloud.

The MGT Act passed the House, and backers in the Senate plan to release a companion bill after the election. The legislation could pave the way for appropriators to set aside billions of dollars for agencies to update old technology.

Kirit Amin, CIO at the International Trade Commission, said he would like small agencies to be included in the legislation. Only the 24 large agencies covered by the Chief Financial Officers Act are eligible for the $3 billion IT modernization pool in the MGT Act.

"Small agencies need a seat at the table" in discussions about the bill and with IT modernization leaders across government, such as the CIO Council, Amin said, elaborating on a presentation he gave at ACT-IAC's recent Executive Leadership Conference.

A Capitol Hill source said the portion of the MGT Act that covers working capital funds for legacy IT systems is written along the same lines as the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act and the Data Center Optimization Initiative. Smaller agencies could be written into the MGT Act in theory, but "we wouldn't want to circumvent FITARA."

Amin said other programs have helped smaller agencies with cybersecurity and legacy systems without breaking their budgets, such as the General Services Administration's Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program for cloud solutions and the Department of Homeland Security's Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation program.

More such centrally offered services from larger, more experienced agencies could go a long way toward helping small and independent agencies keep up with a rapidly evolving threat landscape, Amin added.

He said a sustained effort to keep attention on IT modernization is essential so the momentum to pass the MGT Act is not lost during the upcoming transition. Despite the uncertainty, career federal IT managers must continue to push for modernization, he added.

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 [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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