The coming presidential transition could take the steam out of federal IT reform, lawmakers and agency officials said.
Lawmakers and federal IT leaders say they don't want the momentum behind addressing aging and inefficient IT systems to lag while a new administration settles in.
The failure of HealthCare.gov, the hack of the Office of Personnel Management and other high-profile IT failures created a "perfect storm" that resulted in positive efforts such as the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act, increased agile IT development and the move toward a digital government. But at the NowForum in Washington, some leaders expressed concern that a new administration might not feel the same urgency to keep up the pace of reform.
"We don't want stasis for four or five months," Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said. "We don't want to lose one moment. We have to watch the transition teams. Strange things can happen, even within the same party. I hope [U.S. CIO] Tony Scott stays where he is."
David Shive, CIO at the General Services Administration and acting commissioner of the agency's Technology Transformation Service, said, "The government doesn't have the luxury of being behind the curve" on IT modernization.
Both men urged a close eye on transition efforts, more innovation and -- in Shive's case -- more reliance on software, platform and infrastructure as a service.
"What keeps me awake at night as a citizen is the tech community has been working to change the IT investment continuum to maximize the value of that investment" by eliminating or modernizing legacy systems, Shive said. "No agency has access to a pool funding" for those efforts.
The Senate is expected to take up its own version of the Modernizing Government Technology Act, which passed the House in September. The bill would authorize governmentwide and agency-based funds to move legacy systems to more secure platforms.
Connolly told FCW that the act stands "a pretty good chance" of passing the Senate in the post-election lame-duck session.
During his presentation at the conference, Shive said the agile development efforts that are just emerging at federal agencies could wither away if they're not tended. "Agile processes aren't enough to ensure the innovative drive through the transition" and volatile budget cycles, he added.
GSA plays a role in supporting the transition, but Shive said federal and commercial technologists "have to make sure the technology doesn't fail." Federal IT experts "have to have a conversation with the next administration on where we're doing well and where we need help."
With the election less than two weeks away, Connolly could not resist a poke at Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Connolly said he had a solution to the complex procurement issues that have contributed to the government's legacy IT problems, "but the Canadians are going to pay for it."
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