Congress

$500M IT modernization plan passes Senate in defense bill

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A $500 million IT modernization bill cleared the Senate as part of the must-pass defense bill, setting the stage for the establishment of a governmentwide fund and agency-based funds to support shifting legacy IT systems to the cloud.

The Senate voted 89 to 8 to pass the National Defense Authorization Act on Sept. 18. The Modernizing Government Technology Act was included as part of an amendments package.

"The MGT Act is a critical step toward bringing our federal IT systems into the 21st century. The improved efficiencies included in the legislation will strengthen our cybersecurity capabilities and reduce long-term wasteful spending," said co-sponsor Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.)

The bill had already passed the House of Representatives as a standalone bill on a voice vote, however the bill moved slowly in the Senate, never getting a vote in the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. Now, as a fixture of the NDAA, the bill will be taken up in conference committee, where lawmakers hammer out the differences between the House and Senate defense bills before moving to final passage.

"By incentivizing the transition to modern technology, we will allow the government to harness cutting-edge technologies, use each dollar more efficiently, strengthen our digital infrastructure and improve government services for everyone," said House backer Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), who chairs the IT subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

"The Senate's actions take us closer to enactment," said Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president and counsel of the Professional Services Council, "which will provide a dedicated funding stream for federal agencies to harness new technologies, reduce government costs and vulnerabilities, and improve efficiency and performance."

Trey Hodgkins, senior vice president for the IT Alliance for the Public Sector, called the measure "a win for taxpayers' wallets."

As recently as Sept. 15, it was not clear whether MGT would find its way into the final package of amendments attached to the Senate bill.

Both the House and Senate versions of the bill come in at well above the caps set for spending under the Budget Control Act, and lawmakers opted not to pass measure to eliminate or suspend budget caps. The Senate bill includes $640 billion in discretionary spending and $60 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations funding. The spending levels are about the same in the House bill. The Office of Management and Budget has warned that such high spending will trigger more than $70 billion in sequestration.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), one of the few 'no' votes in the Senate, cited budget issues.

"We are deeply indebted to our brave men and women in uniform for their service to our country," Corker said in a statement. "Unfortunately, this legislation not only blows the budget caps by nearly $83 billion but also exceeds the president's funding request by more than $32 billion…we cannot continue to do things the same way and deepen the fiscal crisis jeopardizing our national security."

Besides the budget, other provisions regarding workforce issues such as security clearances, IT acquisition, and the ability for government agencies to use commercial online marketplaces as an acquisition tool will need to be hashed out before the bill becomes law.

"This is among the fastest that both the House and Senate have passed their respective versions of the NDAA," Chvotkin told FCW. "Sometimes the Senate has not been able to act until October, November, or December. [Passing the bill early] really helps a lot [and] gives the Senate Armed Services Committee a reasonable amount of time to resolve their differences."

About the Author

Lauren C. Williams is a staff writer at FCW covering defense and cybersecurity.

Prior to joining FCW, Williams was the tech reporter for ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In past positions, Williams covered health care, politics and crime for various publications, including The Seattle Times.

Williams graduated with a master's in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor's in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be contacted at lwilliams@fcw.com, or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.

Click here for previous articles by Wiliams.


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