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Lawmakers Introduce Alternative to White House’s $3.1 Billion IT Modernization Fund

Rep. Will Hurd, R-T, ... ]

Rep. Will Hurd, R-T, ... ] // mama_mia/Shutterstock.com

Story has been updated with a quote from Doug Bourgeois. 

New House legislation introduced today serves as an alternative to the $3.1 billion IT Modernization Fund proposed by the White House in February.

Rather than create one pot of money administered by the General Services Administration that agencies borrow against to modernize IT systems, the Modernizing Outdated and Vulnerable Equipment and Information Technology Act of 2016, or MOVE IT, directs individual agencies to establish IT working capital funds.

The legislation was introduced by Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, and a bipartisan cadre of other lawmakers. The Senate also followed suit, introducing an identical act. After today, Congress will recess for seven weeks until Sept. 6.

The proposed capital funds would be sourced through the reprogramming or transfer of existing funds today used for the “operation and maintenance of legacy systems,” but only if “the transfer authority is specifically provided by law.”

Those funds could only be used to replace legacy IT systems, the transition to cloud computing and other modern platforms and to support efforts to bolster information security. Projects over $5 million would require transition plans and approval by the U.S. chief information officer.

Under the newly proposed legislation, agencies would seem to be rewarded for activities like closing legacy data centers, as previously argued by Hurd and other lawmakers. The latest data from the Government Accountability Office says shuttering data centers could save as much as $8 billion through 2019.

Importantly, the bill doesn’t call for up-front appropriations, but it doesn’t rule out the possibility of agency-specific discretionary funding, either.

Another key difference between Hurd’s proposed legislation and legislation for the ITMF introduced by Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., is that agencies won’t have to worry about paying back money. In the past, Scott has said he didn’t foresee major issues with agencies doing so under ITMF; however, it remains unclear exactly what could be done to compel agencies to pay back their borrowed dollars should they decide not to.

Speaking Thursday at the Palo Alto Networks Federal Forum in Washington, D.C., Hurd said MOVE IT would give agencies “the tools and abilities” to purchase technology to keep the federal IT infrastructure intact.

Innovation, Efficiency Gains and a Beefed-Up FedRAMP

While MOVE IT would create funds for individual agencies to modernize their legacy systems, the core of the bill is about moving federal IT beyond the 20th century toward on-demand computing, efficiency gains and innovation.

"Federal agencies are at different points along their IT modernization journey," said Doug Bourgeois, a principal at Deloitte Consulting. ​"Whether just getting started or well on their way, agencies and industry have learned that there is a need to streamline and accelerate the FedRAMP accreditation process and improve public-private interaction. Also, having IT spending flexibility could also substantially accelerate the transition to cloud, allowing agencies to tap into the cloud and innovation at digital speed." 

The Obama administration’s fiscal 2017 budget allocates some 8.2 percent of the federal IT budget – about $7.3 billion – toward provisioned services like cloud computing. MOVE IT suggests the government needs to speed up its move to the cloud.

Specifically, MOVE IT would expand authorities within the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program office to streamline and speed up accreditations. In the wake of criticism from industry groups and vendors stuck in lengthier-than-anticipated pipelines for accreditation, FedRAMP Director Matt Goodrich announced significant improvements to the program in March.  

If implemented, Hurd’s legislation would call for more transparency between the FedRAMP office and vendors as well as the creation of a public-private industry cloud commercial working group referred to as a FedRAMP Liaison Group. The group would be hosted quarterly by GSA – which houses the FedRAMP program -- and would be composed of government officials and reps from cloud service providers.

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