Will Trump make federal IT great again?

Shutterstock image (by Julia Tim): businessman receiving a bag of money. 

Just weeks before the election, a business school professor at Temple University published a research paper arguing that unified government -- with the executive branch and both houses of Congress controlled by a single party – is good for IT investment.

Min-Seok Pang's research note, "Politics and Information Technology Investments in the U.S. Federal Government in 2003–2016," used data from the federal IT dashboard and elsewhere to demonstrate that agencies spend about 8.3 percent more on new IT development and modernization with unified government compared to when control is divided between the Democratic and Republican elected officials.

"I hope my prediction holds out and I look forward to new data to update my findings," Pang told FCW. "I hope the Trump administration will make federal IT great again."

Pang's thesis is that risk-averse federal officials need the support of a unified government to be comfortable stepping on the gas when it comes to modernization.

"New IT projects are risky. There is a lot of room for failure," he said. "A mandate from Congress helps induce federal officials to be more proactive" when it comes to modernization.

While there are many arguments to refresh legacy systems, from cybersecurity to better performance, Pang says a key driver should be savings. His research into state government tech spending for his Ph.D. thesis suggests that every dollar in IT investment could lead to almost $3.50 in overall budget savings.

Pang is also looking to quantify the cybersecurity impact of IT modernization. He's working with reports on agency breaches and weaknesses required under federal information security legislation. Pang's preliminary finding is that agencies that have even a small uptick in IT modernization spending will experience fewer security incidents. He's expecting to publish more detailed findings in 2017.

What he has learned so far about the correlation between tech upgrades and security outcomes, "validates the efforts of the MGT Act," Pang said. He told FCW he was disappointed that the legislation was on hold at least until the next Congress, in part because of a $9 billion budget score from the Congressional Budget Office.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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