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Tech Industry Lines up Behind IT Modernization Fund Proposal

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Representatives of the tech industry are showing public support for legislation that would establish a $3.1 billion revolving fund to help federal agencies upgrade aging and obsolete IT systems.

Signing on to statements of approval are executives from Northrop Grumman, Cisco, Dell, Intel, CSRA and the pro-business U.S. Chamber of Commerce, whose stance on the matter could be useful in thawing Republican opposition to the measure’s price tag.

“The federal government should look to root out aging systems that are increasingly at risk of cyberattacks and theft of sensitive personal data in favor of cloud-based, shared service models,” said Eric Wenger, Cisco’s director of cybersecurity and privacy. “If done right, the modernization of IT systems across the federal government has the potential to deliver cost savings, security enhancements and improvements in the quality of citizen services.”

The statements were collected in an April 26 release by Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., who introduced the IT Modernization Fund earlier this month. The Obama administration first proposed the fund as part of its fiscal 2017 budget package, but it requires congressional approval.

The execs said establishing a revolving fund -- to which agencies would have to apply and for which funding would be doled out incrementally -- echoes industry best practices. In an April 20 op-ed in the San Jose Mercury News, Hoyer noted U.S. Chief Information Officer Tony Scott had implemented a similar program as CIO at Microsoft.

“Instead of appropriating vast sums annually on slow, incremental upgrades, as has been done in the past, this legislation uses a novel approach that has proved successful and cost-effective in the private sector,” Hoyer wrote in the op-ed.

Still, the proposal has been slow to garner approval in Congress.

House Republicans declined to include the measure in their annual budget resolution last month. Earlier, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, called the administration’s rationale for the fund “hogwash.”

When the topic came up during a congressional hearing last week, Chaffetz said, "It's unbelievable how far behind we are, and yet, I don't think it's for a lack of funding.”

Since the start of the Obama administration, the federal government has spent more than $525 billion on IT, Chaffetz said.

“I have a hard time believing that we're just $3 billion away from solving this,” he added.

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