Senate Panel Passes FITARA Extension in Block of IT Bills

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Other legislation includes a mandate for agencies to create mobile-friendly websites and to report on the security clearance backlog.

The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee approved legislation on Wednesday that would extend the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative and eliminate the sunset periods for a handful of key consolidation requirements.

The committee forwarded the FITARA Enhancement Act to the Senate along with a handful of other bills relating to federal technology, including the Connected Government Act, SECRET Act and Hack the DHS Act.

With the Government Accountability Office calling out many agencies for dragging their feet on optimizing data centers, the FITARA Enhancement Act would help ensure the government’s consolidation goals are met.

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The legislation would extend the consolidation initiative—originally set to expire in 2018—to 2020, and other transparency and review requirements that would have been phased out.

Sens. Steve Daines, R-Mont., Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Mark Warner, D-Va., sponsored the bill, which mirrors legislation passed by the House Oversight Committee in July.

“This is an important step forward in making the FITARA Enhancement Act reality and in our efforts to realize the full potential of FITARA,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., the sponsor of the bill’s House counterpart. “The bipartisan, bicameral support to extend the DCOI provisions for another two years sends a clear message to agencies that they cannot run out the clock on taking the necessary steps to consolidate and optimize their data centers.”

The Connected Government Act, which also passed the committee on Wednesday, would mandate that all federal websites become mobile-friendly. One think-tank found that only 36 percent of government websites passed a loading speed test for mobile devices, and about 90 percent failed some standard of mobile friendliness, ease of use, loading time or security. If passed, the legislation would require full compliance within 18 months.

Additionally, lawmakers approved the SECRET Act, which would require the Office of Personnel Management’s National Background Investigations Bureau to report their backlog of security clearance investigations as well as the process for investigating and judging clearances within the White House.

The committee also forwarded along legislation that would permit the Homeland Security Department to run bug bounty programs to shore up their websites from potential cyberattacks. Similar programs run by the Pentagon and Air Force have shown success, finding hundreds of bugs that hackers could have potentially exploited.