IT Modernization Bill Sails Through House Committee

Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas

Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas J. Scott Applewhite/AP

“This eliminates the traditional ‘use it or lose it’ approach that has plagued IT for years,” Rep. Will Hurd said.

The Modernizing Government Technology Act on Tuesday swiftly cleared the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee with unanimous support and no amendments.

The next step for the IT modernization legislation, introduced Tuesday by Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, with bipartisan support, will be a House vote that could come within weeks.

The bill—the second version of legislation Hurd authored last year that cleared the House—is gaining momentum behind the premise that government systems are old, expensive and susceptible to cyberattacks.

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“Some of [these systems] go back half a century, at IRS, for example,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., who leads a bipartisan wave of support for the bill with Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill.

Powerful Republicans, including House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., have also expressed support, as have powerful industry groups, including the Professional Services Council and IT Alliance for Public Sector.

“The American people deserve better from their government,” Hurd said Tuesday. “The existing way of doing IT is unsustainable. This bipartisan IT reform package is designed to reduce wasteful spending and increase IT security.”

With Congress scheduled for recess next week, a House vote likely won’t take place until the week of May 15.

Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., with cosponsors Sens. Tom Udall, D-N.M., Mark Warner, D-Va., and Steve Daines, R-Mont., introduced April 28 companion legislation in the Senate, where the previous iteration of the MGT Act stalled out. Moran’s legislation currently resides within the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Late last year, senators reportedly balked at the Congressional Budget Office’s $9 billion scoring of the prior MGT Act, but this legislation was crafted to avoid those pitfalls with help from Democratic counterparts and White House Office of American Innovation officials Reed Cordish and Chris Liddell.

The bill would create working capital funds of reprogrammed savings within CFO Act agencies. For example, if an agency retires old systems or moves IT to the cloud, it could allocate what it saves in operation and maintenance expenses to a fund for future modernization efforts for up to three years.

“This eliminates the traditional ‘use it or lose it’ approach that has plagued IT for years,” Hurd said.

Added Connolly, who co-authored the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act, the working capital funds incentivize agencies and chief information officers to modernize their systems—something no legislation has truly done before.

“This bipartisan, bicameral legislation will reduce IT spending, enhance IT security and allow agencies to use their own savings to accelerate IT modernization,” Connolly said. “During FITARA implementation, agencies had very little incentive to retire systems quickly. In order to fully realize savings, we needed to add a little sugar to the tea.”

Hurd’s legislation, he said, does that, and further establishes a central fund through which agencies could borrow against for modernization efforts.

The central fund would be managed by the commissioner of the Technology Transformation Service, an office within the General Services Administration. The central fund is a tenet of IT Modernization Fund legislation proposed last year that would have given agencies a $3 billion money pot to borrow from.

The new MGT Act authorizes appropriations of up to $250 million per year for two years for the fund, a smaller pool but one more amenable to CBO estimates.