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House Oversight Passes FITARA Backup Plan

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va. // Steve Helber/AP

A bipartisan group of House lawmakers has a backup plan to extend provisions set to expire later this year under the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee by voice vote cleared the FITARA Enhancement Act of 2017, which would extend the sunset periods of three key requirements regarding data center consolidation, PortfolioStat reviews and the IT dashboard. Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., authored the bill and has support from co-sponsors Reps. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Mark Meadows, R-N.C.

The standalone legislation effectively would do the same thing as a House amendment adopted last week as part of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. If the amendment gets stripped out during the NDAA conference process, the FITARA Enhancement Act would essentially act as insurance that FITARA’s provisions are extended.

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Connolly said Wednesday previous legislative attempts at IT reform “fell short” due to poor planning of executive branch agencies and lax Congressional oversight—outcomes his FITARA Enhancement Act would help avoid.

Should the provision for data center consolidation reporting requirements expire in 2018, for example, agencies would lose the legal incentive to continue closing old, energy-guzzling data centers or optimizing them. Connolly said it’s taken a long time for the government to even figure out how many data centers it had—the tally now stands at more than 11,000—and added that significant progress and savings have only occurred at the near-constant prodding of Congress and the Government Accountability Office.

But allowing the provision to expire next year is “potentially leaving money on the table,” and could result in billions of fewer dollars in savings, Connolly said. As of April 2017, only seven CFO Act agencies authored complete data center consolidation plans, and many agencies weren’t reporting any savings at all.

“We need to let agencies know they are not going to run the clock out on this Congress,” Connolly said. “We need more time to make sure that consolidation occurs and savings are effectuated.”

Issa, who co-authored FITARA with Connolly, said the government’s poor track record for managing IT necessitates stronger oversight from Congress. Oversight can help ensure agencies are “going in the right direction” and not wantonly spending more than $90 billion in annual IT funding.

Connolly touted the FITARA Enhancement Act as a “common-sense” bill that should continue strengthening the bipartisan work on improving federal IT, both in Congress and with members of the White House Office of American Innovation.

White House officials played a role recently in the bipartisan Modernizing Government Technology Act, which passed the House and awaits action in the Senate.

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