MGT Act headed for House vote with slimmed-down CBO score

Will Hurd 

The Congressional Budget Office lowered the price tag on Rep. Will Hurd's MGT Act, from $3 billion to $500 million.

The Modernizing Government Technology Act appears poised to pass in the House of Representatives this week after receiving a favorable score from the Congressional Budget Office.

The bill, which establishes a governmentwide IT modernization fund and authorizes revolving funds for IT upgrades at 24 federal agencies, will cost $500 million to implement, according to the CBO score released on May 12.

The bill is due for a vote on the House floor under suspension of the rules on the morning of May 17. Under suspension, a two-thirds majority is required to pass the bill.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) touted the bill at a May 12 event in San Francisco hosted by Politico.

"All of us as taxpayers spend $80 billion a year on technology in government. Eighty percent of that goes to legacy programs," McCarthy said. "We could save a great amount of money, we could be much more effective, and more importantly, we could be much more accountable."

A more ambitious version of the MGT Act passed the House in the last session of Congress, but prospects for passage in the Senate sank after the bill was saddled with a $9 billion CBO score.

Rich Beutel, who helped draft the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act as a legislative staffer, said that the new CBO score improved the chances of the current bill passing -- not just because of the lower dollar amount, but because the bill is not subject to spending offset requirements.

Reps. Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), the key sponsors of the bill, "worked hard with CBO to bring down the score," said Beutel.

"But even more impressive is that CBO agreed to exempt MGT form the so called pay-go requirements that would have otherwise required the legislation to find an equivalent offset from existing expenditures," Beutel said. "This makes passage of the legislation through the House on Wednesday much easier."

The previous legislation called for a $3 billion revolving fund to span several years, with agencies paying back savings to be reused by other agencies. Sponsors hoped that a $3 billion upfront investment could generate $12 billion in modernization activity. The CBO's take was that the reuse of repaid funds constituted more spending, not savings, hence the $9 billion score in 2016.

"We are pleased to have resolved the misunderstanding in costs of the MGT Act with the [CBO]," Connolly told FCW in an email. "Building off of FITARA, this bill actually saves the government money by modernizing IT systems. The new CBO score more accurately represents the effects the legislation will have on agency IT budgets. I look forward to passage of this bill later this week."

Mike Hettinger, formerly the staff director of the House Oversight committee, said the key to lowering the score was "putting the actual amount you want in the bill." He said that change "gives CBO something concrete to look at."

The reduction of the central fund from $3 billion to $500 million means that much of the activity under the bill will have to take place at agencies. The bill is structured to offer incentives to agency leaders to take on modernization projects covered by the bill, giving them the ability to bank savings achieved by tech refreshes for up to three years, rather than return the money to the Treasury.

Still, agencies and appropriators alike will have to prioritize IT modernization in a constrained budget environment.

"Some will take advantage of it, others won't," Hurd told FCW when he reintroduced the bill in April.

The bill has backing in the Senate from a bipartisan team of appropriators, Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), but it's not clear yet if the measure will get a hearing in the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, or if it has a path to a vote of the full Senate.

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.


  • Contracting
    8 prototypes of the border walls as tweeted by CBP San Diego

    DHS contractors face protests – on the streets

    Tech companies are facing protests internally from workers and externally from activists about doing for government amid controversial policies like "zero tolerance" for illegal immigration.

  • Workforce
    By Mark Van Scyoc Royalty-free stock photo ID: 285175268

    At OPM, Weichert pushes direct hire, pay agent changes

    Margaret Weichert, now acting director of the Office of Personnel Management, is clearing agencies to make direct hires in IT, cyber and other tech fields and is changing pay for specialized occupations.

  • Cloud
    Shutterstock ID ID: 222190471 By wk1003mike

    IBM protests JEDI cloud deal

    As the deadline to submit bids on the Pentagon's $10 billion, 10-year warfighter cloud deal draws near, IBM announced a legal protest.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.