GSA Official: Federal IT Modernization Will Happen With or Without Legislation

Artem Samokhvalov/

Even if Congress doesn't pass a meaningful law, agencies must respond to a crisis U.S. Chief Information Officer Tony Scott has labeled worse than Y2K.

Some federal IT is old—a few systems in government could push for senior citizen status if they were people—and agencies are going to have to modernize whether Congress passes meaningful legislation in the coming months, according to one of General Services Administration’s top tech officials.

Dave Shive, acting commissioner of GSA’s Technology Transformation Service, said the idea behind the proposed $3.1 billion IT Modernization Fund is “sound and solid,” but offered that even if Congress does nothing, agencies must respond to a crisis U.S. Chief Information Officer Tony Scott has labeled worse than Y2K.

“The notion that you would make investments into foundational IT so that you could float the boat, increase usability of technology in the federal space, increase security posture and stance of said technology is a sound concept,” said Shive, speaking Thursday at GSA’s first Tech Industry Day.

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“ITMF takes into account a couple realities about how money is spent in agencies right now and tries to solve those problems by creating a single fund to act against modernization,” he added. “But if ITMF if not passed, it does not negate the need to modernize IT in government. All the smart people who exist in government and our industry partners alongside us will have to think of creative ways to make modernization happen.”

The fund would create a pool of money agencies could borrow against to modernize their outdated systems, though agency CIOs would have to create business cases for the money and present them to a cadre of experts. Competing legislation called the Modernizing Outdated and Vulnerable Equipment and Information Technology Act of 2016 would call on agencies to establish their own IT working capital funds. Recent reports suggest a combination of both pieces of legislation is possible, though Shive declined to offer his odds-on favorite.

“If I was prognosticating, I’d spend my time in Vegas,” he said.