recommended reading

Fed IT Reform Bill Introduced in Senate, Spurred by HealthCare.gov

Sens. Tom Udall, D-N.M., (pictured) and Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, introduced the bill.

Sens. Tom Udall, D-N.M., (pictured) and Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, introduced the bill. // Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP file photo

This story has been updated to include additional information about the Senate bill. 

A bipartisan team of senators introduced legislation on Tuesday that would overhaul how the government buys and builds information technology systems.

The move from Sens. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, was spawned in part by the abysmal performance of the Obama administration’s online health insurance marketplace HealthCare.gov, which was largely out of commission for the first month after its Oct. 1 launch.

Similar legislation passed the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee earlier this year and is awaiting action from the full House. A co-sponsor of the House bill, Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., has predicted the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act would have a strong chance of passing given public attention to HealthCare.gov’s poor performance.

“The systemically flawed rollout of HealthCare.gov is one high-profile example of IT procurement failures, but numerous more projects incur cost overruns, project delays and are abandoned altogether,” Moran said in a statement.

Advocates have said the House version of the IT reform bill could cut billions of dollars from the government’s $80 billion annual IT budget by reducing bureaucracy in the contracting process and increasing accountability in government IT shops. Some critics have worried, though, that the legislation may increase bureaucracy rather than reduce it.

Both the House and Senate bills would mandate that each agency have only one person with the title chief information officer so that one person could be held accountable for major fumbles similar to the HealthCare.gov launch. 

The House version of the bill would also give the CIO full authority over the agency’s IT spending.

The Senate bill, known as the  Federal Information Technology Savings, Accountability, and Transparency Act, would give agency CIOs budget authority for commercial, off-the-shelf items and mandate that they play a major role in budget decisions about other IT purchases.

The Senate bill gives CIO’s hiring authority for agency staff with IT responsibilities and requires that those staffers report to the CIO to the extent he or she deems sufficient. The House bill would create centers of excellence across government that could consult with other agencies about particular categories of IT buying.

Both bills also mandate more transparency about government IT investments. 

The White House has avoided public comment on the bill, though federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel has said giving agency CIOs budget authority is less important than giving them “a seat at the table” when major decisions are being made.

The IT reform bill was also introduced as an amendment to House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act but failed to make it into the final bill, which passed the House last week and is awaiting action in the Senate.

"The federal government needs to be able to build cutting-edge, 21st century computer systems, but right now we are hobbled by laws written in the days of floppy disks and telephone modems,” Udall said.

The Senate bill was also cosponsored by Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb.

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • Effective Ransomware Response

    This whitepaper provides an overview and understanding of ransomware and how to successfully combat it.

    Download
  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.