$3 billion worth of IT is about to kick the bucket

Federal CIO Tony Scott is again warning that the government faces a crisis of outmoded IT.

Federal CIO Tony Scott  (Photo: Robert Severi for FCW)

Federal CIO Tony Scott

Over the next three years, $3 billion worth of federal IT will go out of support, said federal CIO Tony Scott on June 14.

"[N]o more patches, no more firmware upgrades, no more spare parts, no longer official support from those companies," Scott said, speaking at an event sponsored by FedScoop and Brocade. "In the next three years alone, more than the $3 billion we're asking Congress for."

The stat, which Scott said came from conferencing with "a few of [government's] largest suppliers," is one he hopes spurs broad support for a $3.1 billion revolving IT modernization fund.

Scott has long bemoaned the fact that feds spend more than three-quarters of their IT budgets keeping old systems running. He indicated that spending extra for out-of-lifecycle support will only exacerbate the problem – and further hamstring agencies' ability to ever upgrade.

The $3.1 billion IT modernization fund could break the cycle, Scott said.

Agencies would present business cases to receive funding for specific modernization projects, and then pay back the funds with savings over time.

"We think this initial $3 billion can fund about $15 billion of new applications and new infrastructure over the next several years," Scott said, boosting the $12 billion estimate the White House has previously offered.

"If somebody's got a better idea, I'd love to hear it," he said, noting the federal legacy IT problem "is not going to get better if we wait."

The fund has been pushed forward in legislation sponsored by House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). It has been referred to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, where the often-skeptical Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said in May, "I am warming up to the idea, but I'm not there yet."

"I've been impressed that even my Republican colleagues are beginning to see [upfront IT investment] as something we may have to do," Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), a cosponsor in the ITMF bill, told FCW on June 15.

But Connolly warned that the fund still needs a path out of the committee.

"I don't think there's a timeline [to move the bill] yet, and one of the concerns about that is Congress is not in session much longer," he said. "Our window of opportunity is shrinking."

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