As agencies ramp up their IT modernization efforts, increased acquisition training at the agency procurement level and support from the White House and Congress play a central role.
The Modernizing Government Technology Act, a bill to help agencies upgrade their legacy technology, passed out of committee on May 2 and will soon get a vote on the House floor.
The chief sponsor of the legislation, Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), said during the markup at the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that the problem of aging federal IT infrastructure is "completely solvable."
The bill includes a $500 million central fund to bankroll IT modernization projects to be based at the General Services Administration, and creates a framework for appropriators to establish revolving IT modernization funds inside large government agencies.
The agency funds can be used to bank any savings realized by modernization to fund future projects.
"In order to fully realize the potential savings and moving agencies to modernize, we need to add a little sugar to the tea," said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), a co-sponsor of the bill and one of the sponsors of the Federal IT Acquisition and Reform Act.
Speaking to reporters later that day, Hurd said he hoped that the bill could be debated on the House floor during the next D.C. work period, which begins May 16.
A version of the bill with a $3 billion revolving fund passed the House during the last session of Congress, but stalled in the Senate after the Congressional Budget Office said the bill would cost a total of $9 billion to implement.
Hurd is hoping for a lower CBO score this time, both because the upfront funding number has been reduced and because of changes to the language of the bill. At the same time, Hurd acknowledged that budgetary pressures make the funding piece of the bill a tough request.
"I don't know if the appetite is there to put in an appropriation for a [Technology Modernization Fund] for 2018. That's a conversation we're going to be having in the summer and early fall," Hurd said. He also said he expects the real value of the bill to come from the working capital funds inside agencies.
“We also have a little bit more time to educate our friends in the Senate, because we were putting this together so fast at the end [of the last Congress] that we weren’t able to go and talk to individuals about what we thought was an incorrect score for this bill… I don’t know if the appetite is there to put in appropriation a TMF fund for 2018. That’s a conversation we’re going to be having in the summer and early fall. But I think the value of MGT is the working capital fund.
Hurd also praised the White House for backing the bill, and for launching efforts to address government technology problems on multiple fronts, including the Office of American Innovation and the American Technology Council.
"They've been great, honestly, they've been helpful in articulating how they want to use this new tool in their toolkit," Hurd said. "That has helped us to tweak some of the language, since they're interested in making it happen. Also having them fully behind to push this in the Senate is going to be helpful."
Hurd doesn't think the lack of a governmentwide CIO or chief technology officer, or unfilled CIO posts at agencies is going to be an issue in getting MGT passed, but he is looking forward to getting the government's senior technology ranks staffed up.
"So, it’s a problem in that you’d want to have the full team up and running," Hurd said. "But again…when you look at the list of cosponsors, when you get that mixed group of people together, not many folks are going to find this to be an issue."
MGT's Senate counterpart is being introduced by Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) The pair authored a cloud adoption bill in early 2016 that was eventually folded in to the first iteration of the MGT Act.
"Bringing the government’s aging IT systems into the 21st century would not only bolster our cybersecurity, but also save billions of taxpayer dollars by cutting wasteful spending in the long-term.," Moran told FCW. "Passage of this bill by the House Oversight Committee is an important step forward for the future of investing in federal IT reform --- I look forward to its swift consideration on the House floor as well as in the Senate."
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