recommended reading

Fed IT Reform Bill Introduced in Senate, Spurred by

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, 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’s poor performance.

“The systemically flawed rollout of 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 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


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

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

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security


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