White House pushes Congress to pass $3.1B IT modernization fund

The White House is preparing to send Congress more details on its plan for a revolving $3.1 billion IT modernization fund after the House Budget Committee failed to include the measure in the 2017 budget resolution.

U.S. Capitol at Night

The White House is preparing to send Congress new legislation that dives further into the revolving $3.1 billion IT modernization fund.

"I know they are preparing to transmit legislation to the Hill," said Sean Casey, a policy adviser at the Office of Management and Budget, during a MeriTalk event on the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act. "Obviously [Federal CIO] Tony Scott testified about it and advocated" for the IT modernization fund.

Casey said further discussions would take place if Congress decides to enact the measure.

The Obama administration proposed the fund to serve as a mechanism for agencies to upgrade legacy IT to more modern, cloud-based systems. Savings agencies achieve on the back end would be repaid into the fund. It is envisioned that the fund could address $12 billion in modernization projects over the course of 10 years.

The fund recently failed to pass as an amendment to the fiscal 2017 budget resolution in the House Budget Committee.

Lawmakers have raised concerns about the amount of money that has already been allocated for IT modernization efforts and have questioned why an additional $3 billion is needed.

"You need to look at each agency individually, and you also need to look at those funds and ensure the way that those funds will come out, and you need to really make sure Congress is on board with what they are being used for," David Powner, director of IT management issues at the Government Accountability Office, told the audience. He added that it's important to have the right process in place to manage the funds.

As OMB proceeds with its guidance on the fund, Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) are refreshing the language in their Cloud Infrastructure Transition Act of 2015. The legislation would give new authority to the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program to speed accreditation of commercial cloud providers, establish a framework for the federal CIO to set up working capital funds for IT modernization and task agencies with strict reporting requirements designed to expose their reliance on obsolete technology.

Former House staffer Rich Beutel, who helped draft FITARA, has been advising current Senate staffers on the cloud bill. Beutel, who now leads consulting firm Cyrrus Analytics, told FCW he hopes lawmakers will release something next week to position the bill for markup by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. There's not much time left on the legislative calendar before the election season makes substantive action difficult.

Beutel was not aware of the timing of legislation coming from the administration on IT modernization but said he hoped the bills could move in parallel to emphasize to Congress the need for updating legacy IT systems. If the White House delivers a bill alongside the Senate measure, it would be "instrumental in aligning the stars" for Congress in a "very tough fiscal environment," he added.

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