GSA chief: Central IT fund is a start, not a remedy

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

While President Donald Trump’s budget proposal includes a $228 million investment for a general IT modernization fund, the head of the agency overseeing the fund sees the initial investment as more of a proof of concept than a panacea.

At a May 24 House Appropriations Committee hearing, General Services Administration acting Administrator Tim Horne testified that the initial money is "not enough” to remedy all the government’s IT problems, but that the "$228 million is a way to start … chipping away" at them.

The initial investment, Horne said, “could prove the concept is the right idea to have this board of technology experts chaired by the federal CIO making decisions about return on IT investments.”

"The government spends $80 billion a year on IT, and most of that investment is for maintenance for outdated systems," he said, adding that he hopes the money included in the budget "would be seed money."

The funding in the budget request tracks closely with the Modernizing Government Technology Act, which recently passed the House of Representatives and has received support from the White House Office of American Innovation. That bill stipulates that GSA manage the centralized IT fund.

The MGT Act also calls for the creation of a "business board" run by the Office of Management and Budget that would review what government projects would receive funding. The Trump administration has yet to fill the permanent federal CIO post. 

Horne also pointed out the significant drop in dollar amount for the centralized fund between the 2017 MGT Act and the 2016 version, which called for a $3 billion revolving fund before stalling in the Senate due to a bloated Congressional Budget Office score.

Horne added that he hopes the initial investment, over time, turns into "a revolving fund … where we can continue to move the government to more shared IT platforms, find ways to improve cybersecurity, improve this … management challenge that we all face of this outdated IT system that’s very expensive to reinvest in."

Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) told FCW that while he was happy that the administration gave the MGT Act a more formal stamp of approval by way of the budget proposal, he believes the value of the bill lies in "the working capital funds that can be established at the various agencies."

Hurd also said that he thinks "it’s important for OMB to highlight some of the examples of how that $228 million could potentially be used in order to modernize systems."

Hurd added that the White House’s Office of American Innovation  -- “all the way to Jared Kushner” -- wants to see the bill passed and views it as a tool for agencies to modernize.

Even with its House passage and the inclusion in budget proposal, the MGT Act still has to pass the Senate.

The companion bill, introduced by Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.), has yet to be taken up by the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter


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