After MGT, Hurd presses cyber national guard bill

Will Hurd 

Fresh off a legislative victory with the MGT Act. Rep. Will Hurd is pushing for the development of a cyber national guard.

Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) said he wants federal CIOs to get up to speed on the modernization tools provided in the recently passed Modernizing Government Technology Act as quickly as possible -- but worries that that the slow pace of hiring may limit the law's potential impact at some agencies. Hurd also identified his plan for a "cyber National Guard" as his next legislative priority, but said he needs more information from federal agencies about IT job vacancies first.

Speaking at the Tech Trends conference hosted by the Professional Services Council on Sept. 25, Hurd detailed his next steps after the MGT passed the Senate as part of the National Defense and Authorization Act. He said his office is working closely with the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of American Innovation to "tweak" the MGT Act based on how the administration wants to use it.

"Now we have to make sure the CIOs are going to take advantage of this as quickly as possible to start delivering up that capital fund in order to keep modernization going," Hurd said.

That will require federal CIOs who are empowered and entrenched within the federal government. Currently there is no permanent federal CIO in place or nominated, no federal CISO, and 13 of 27 agencies are working with CIO vacancies or acting CIOs. When asked by FCW for his thoughts on the situation, Hurd said the administration is attempting to vet candidates and move them through the Senate, but called the backlog a "reality" that will take time to address.

Only a handful of the cabinet-agency CIO jobs are Senate-confirmed political posts.

"I think everybody would say that we wish there were more permanent people in [those] positions. If you're not permanent, you're not going to probably do anything earth shattering, and that's unfortunate," he said.

Hurd followed up by stating that not having a fully staffed CIO shop may limit the effectiveness of IT modernization efforts and the MGT Act.

"I recognize not all [agencies] are going to be in a position to take advantage of the MGT, period, and that's problematic," he said. "I think over time, there will be a correlation between the folks using the MGT and the quality of that CIO."

Matt Lira, President Donald Trump's special assistant for innovation policy and initiatives, called the MGT act "a tremendous success story" and said the administration is looking to build off the bipartisan process that led to its passage. In particular, Lira said White House officials are examining a mix of regulatory action and new legislation that would give CIOs more control over the modernization process, prioritize citizen experiences and roll back regulations that they believe are hindering modernization efforts. He added that the administration is not prepared to throw its support behind a specific bill at this time.

Getting Democrats on board with any new legislation is key, he said -- not just for the purpose of passing a bill, but to ensure that the policy would remain consistent regardless of who is in power.

"What we cannot have in this space is -- every four or eight years -- wild shifts in objectives or goals," said Lira.

Hurd, having helped to shepherd the MGT Act through passage, said his staff is now turning their attention to legislation for a "Cyber National Guard" bill, whereby private sector IT professionals would be given scholarships in exchange for agreeing to dedicate a certain amount of time per quarter to rotating within federal government agencies.

"The idea is you provide that service for another four years, and then when you go to work go to work for one of the private sector companies… you can loan them back to the federal government for the proverbial one weekend a month, two weeks a year," he said.

Rob Cook, head of the Technology Transformation Service at the General Services Administration, said it is key to infuse the government with private sector talent in the form of term-hires order to keep things "fresh."

"There are people that are great who…would not consider a career in the federal government, and we want to be able to have them contribute," said Cook.

However, as he begins work on a drafting language for a bill, Hurd said he needed two things: more detail from federal agencies regarding the type of IT job openings available and feedback from industry on how to structure such rotations so that they're not "disruptive."

Hurd said he would like to work with departments and agencies to get more detail on the job openings and the skills required to fill them, but again pointed out that implementing such an effort across agencies would be easier with a federal CIO driving the process from the top.

"We need that [data], because if I'm spending federal dollars to send a kid to college, I want to make sure that kid can go immediately into one of these unfilled positions," he said.

About the Author

Derek B. Johnson is a former senior staff writer at FCW.


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