Senators look to pass MGT via defense bill

The Modernizing Government Technology Act could become law via a defense bill, like its predecessors FITARA and Clinger-Cohen.

Shutterstock image (by Orhan Cam): United States Capitol - Washington, D.C.
 

The Senate backers of the Modernizing Government Technology Act are looking to a familiar vehicle to get their legislation enacted – the must-pass defense authorization bill.

Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) offered the Modernizing Government Technology Act as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act.

The bill sets creates a central $500 million modernization fund that agencies can tap into to move from legacy systems to cloud and managed services, while authorizing agency-based revolving funds for the same purpose. If the bill passes, it will be up to appropriators to establish spending levels for the agency-based funds.

"There have been constructive, bipartisan conversations between the bill sponsors, committee leaders and the administration, and I believe we can come together and move the bill through the Senate in the coming months," Udall said in an emailed statement. "To that end, I joined Senator Moran in filing the MGT Act as an amendment to the NDAA since that may again be a viable path toward enacting important federal IT reform legislation."

The move comes as the bill is being discussed at the staff level in the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. The MGT Act passed the House on a voice vote in May.

The Trump administration is behind the bill. Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is a leader of the American Technology Council, discussed federal IT modernization in his first public remarks in his new role. Trump's 2018 budget proposal calls for $229 million to establish a revolving fund at the General Services Administration.

The Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act passed in 2014 as a section of the NDAA. The Clinger-Cohen legislation that governed federal IT acquisition for almost two decades also passed as a piece of a defense bill.

There's still activity directed at passing the bill as a standalone. A Capitol Hill source told FCW on background that negotiations are ongoing between the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee and the House sponsors "to get this done ASAP." The source said using the defense bill as a vehicle is "a possibility but not a foregone conclusion."

The source also said that since the MGT Act touches all agencies, the issue of it being relevant or germane to the defense bill would likely not pose a problem.

Many in the federal contracting community have been eager to pass MGT to spur modernization. The Professional Services Council has been pushing for the measure since it was first introduced in the waning days of the Obama administration.

"As the MGT Act has been under consideration for two years, PSC urges senators to support swift enactment of this bipartisan legislation to save taxpayer dollars and address security risks from outdated government computer systems," said Cate Benedetti, PSC's vice president of government relations. "Accordingly, PSC would welcome its passage as part of the defense bill."

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