Congress

MGT Act poised for a comeback

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

A bid in the last Congress to set aside pots of money for cloud adoption was doomed by a $9 billion score from the Congressional Budget Office.

The Modernizing Government Technology Act, which passed the House of Representatives on a voice vote in September 2016, was ignored by the Senate in the wake of the prohibitively high score.

Sponsors of the bill are regrouping, looking to craft legislation that will satisfy the budget office while still remaining palatable to members and industry.

"I think there's some confusion on how MGT would actually work, which caused such a high score by CBO," said the bill's lead sponsor, Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), in an interview with FCW. "We're working on how to reduce that confusion so that we get a score that's pretty close to zero."

Cosponsor Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said legislators were "caught off guard" by the CBO score, which was released in December in the waning days of the 114th Congress.

"We need to be meeting with CBO and other stakeholders to see if we can't reopen that issue," he said.

The MGT Act does two things: it creates a governmentwide fund of $3 billion for agencies to upgrade legacy systems to managed services; and it establishes individual funds at 24 agencies which allow for the reprogramming of existing funds (with the approval of congressional appropriators) to be used to modernize IT systems.

One issue for CBO is that reprogrammed funds are scored as spending. The bill, according to the scoring document, would "increase direct spending by $3 billion over the 2017-2019 period because it would allow agencies to spend previously appropriated funds that would otherwise lapse."

Another issue is the upfront costs. The $3 billion in the governmentwide fund was counted in the CBO score for the first year of enactment, even though the pace of acquisitions make it unlikely that full amount could be spent or even obligated during the first year the law takes effect.

It's still too early to say how the law might be altered to achieve a lower CBO score, but Hurd told FCW he was optimistic that it would happen.

"MGT is not going to cost the federal government money," he said. "It's going to save money. We are getting folks together, so that when we go back, it doesn't have this ridiculous price tag on it."

Dave Powner, one of the lead IT oversight auditors for the Government Accountability Office, told FCW that Hurd's staff is looking to convene GAO staff and agency CIOs to talk about ways to build savings into the bill.

While sponsors hope to get a revised bill out this year, there's no timeframe as of yet.

"I don't know anyone who has figured this out yet," said Mike Hettinger, a former Hill staffer and currently a lobbyist specializing in procurement and IT issues. "It's a work in progress."

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, health IT and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mr. Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian started his career as an arts reporter and critic, and has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, Architect magazine, and other publications. He was an editorial assistant and staff writer at the now-defunct New York Press and arts editor at the About.com online network in the 1990s, and was a weekly contributor of music and film reviews to the Washington Times from 2007 to 2014.

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


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