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Connolly Pledges to Reintroduce Modernizing Government Technology Act

House Oversight Committee member Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va.

House Oversight Committee member Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va. // Susan Walsh/AP

At least one Democratic lawmaker plans to continue his efforts to modernize federal IT, despite the administration change.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., said he plans to reintroduce a bill that would set up working capital funds in federal agencies to support their technology modernization projects. It would also create a governmentwide fund other agencies could apply to for additional funding.

Tony Scott, the federal chief information officer under the Obama administration, had proposed a $3.1 billion IT modernization fund, though the bill doesn't assign a dollar amount to the federal fund.

The Modernizing Government Technology Act, sponsored by Connolly and Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, passed in the House last year, but stalled in the Senate.

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"There'll be continuity up here," Connolly said at a MeriTalk event in Washington on Wednesday. "We're going to be boringly disciplined in pursuing this."

Asked how useful MGT would be if enacted, National Archives and Records Administration Deputy Chief Information Officer Marlon Andrews said the legislation doesn't allocate new funds to agencies, and it's not clear yet how beneficial it will be to CIOs.

While "it's a good attempt to give you a vehicle to prioritize" to budget authorities why certain systems need to be modernized, he said, "do I really want to go out and get funds that I have to pay back later on?"

Connolly, who is co-chair of the House Cloud Computing Caucus, also described his efforts to set metrics for the consolidation of federal data centers and the steady transfer of data into the cloud. Some agencies resisting cloud programs often cite security concerns as a barrier to cloud adoption, but even the CIA has moved much of its data into the cloud, he noted.

Connolly also expressed frustration with the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, a security certification system that authorizes certain companies to sell cloud services to the government. Though designed to be a "shortcut, a one-stop shop for certification ... and a relatively modest, manageable cost," the program in practice has become a "long drawn tortuous process with a big backlog. It costs millions of dollars [per company, to achieve certification] on average."

The FedRAMP office has been working to speed up the process from 12-18 months to 15 weeks.

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