Congress

Connolly: Federal IT won't get lost in House Oversight

US Congress House side Shutterstock photo ID: 156615524 By mdgn editorial use only 

While the House Committee on Oversight and Reform plans hard-hitting probes of the Trump administration, the panel isn't abandoning tech and federal IT priorities.

The committee, now under Democratic leadership, is probing prescription drug pricing, the administration's potential ties to Russia and conflicts of interest, as well as White House security clearances. The committee also plans to take on the 2020 Census, an IT-intensive, constitutionally mandated endeavor, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has agreed to appear in March.

Beyond those concerns, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) told FCW there are plenty of IT issues to be addressed "right out of the gate."

"In terms of IT right away," Connolly pointed to FedRAMP, the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act oversight and the Modernizing Government Technology Act as three priorities.

On MGT, Connolly added he was "very" concerned by the proposed drop in funding for the central Technology Modernization Fund – the latest round of appropriations bills adds just $25 million to the governmentwide fund.

"But I'm perhaps even more concerned" by the disconnect between the intent of the law, and agencies' hang-ups in taking advantage of working capital funds, he said.

Connolly also said the General Services Administration would be a primary investigative focus -- specifically pointing to both GSA's decision to cancel the planned FBI building relocation and, almost directly across the street, the agency's lease of the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue. Connolly noted GSA's facilities management operations fall under the Government Operations Subcommittee's jurisdiction, but added the Trump hotel lease is likely to be handled by the full committee because "that's an emoluments and conflict of interest issue."

Connolly is not the only legislator on the committee with IT interests.  Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.), a key sponsor of Federal CIO Authorization Act, also returns to the panel.  However, Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) will not. Earlier this Congress, the committee disbanded the IT subcommittee, which Hurd chaired since its revival in 2015. Though he's no longer with the Oversight committee, a spokesperson for Hurd said he would continue focus on federal IT issues in other ways.

And even without the IT subcommittee, Connolly said under the purview of the Government Operations Subcommittee, he plans to tackle "100 percent" of the issues the IT subcommittee would have.

The wave of new additions to the committee includes Reps. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), who introduced the Internet Bill of Rights last session, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who earlier this Congress gave Democratic colleagues a seminar on how to effectively use social media. But, Connolly pointed out, none joined the Government Operations panel.

"But hopefully we can take advantage of the perspective and knowledge they bring," he said, noting that learning the federal IT landscape may be new for members new to government.

"We're not just dealing with knowledge gaps. We're dealing with legacy systems, we're dealing with how do we use a $96 billion a year procurement budget, we're dealing with cyber protection, we're dealing with protecting big federal databases," he said with a smile. "So that's a little different than how good are you at Instagram."

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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