Six federal technology advocacy groups offered four principles for legislators to consider.
The next stimulus package—expected to infuse trillions of dollars into the U.S. economy—must include significant and targeted funding for federal, state and local technology upgrades, according to a group of federal IT-focused advocacy groups.
As Americans receive checks from the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act, Congress is already considering another round of stimulus spending to ease the pain of strict social distancing measures. To be truly effective, the funding must also include support for the underlying IT systems used to distribute emergency aid and ensure government operations continue unabated, according to a letter sent Wednesday to House and Senate leadership.
While the last stimulus bill included some funding for government operations, the letter—signed by the Information Technology Industry Council, the Alliance for Digital Innovation, CompTIA, the Center for Procurement Advocacy, the Internet Association and the Cybersecurity Coalition—said that support was far from enough.
“Congress has already made it clear that improving our digital infrastructure is a critical priority for America, and we urge you to ensure funding of the appropriate size and scope to address these obvious needs is included in any subsequent relief package,” the group wrote. “This includes IT investments to support telework and telemedicine, dramatic improvements [to] citizen-facing services such as loan programs, state unemployment application processing and call centers, and to ensure that agencies at the federal, state, and local level have modern technology capabilities and infrastructure that can scale to address exigent circumstances.”
The letter cites outdated IT systems at every level of government hindering the disbursement of aid and making it difficult for various bodies to coordinate their response. The crisis has also highlighted governments’ needs to digitize forms and other processes that don’t require in-person interactions.
“In addition, the rapid transition to remote telework during the pandemic has also created new challenges for many government agencies, including increased cybersecurity threats, an inability to leverage commercial capabilities—which reduces program effectiveness—and important continuity of government operations,” the letter states.
The group developed four principles they hope legislators can translate into funding in the next stimulus package. Broadly, those principles include:
- Additional Tools: While the last stimulus bill included funding for telework upgrades, “funding for modernizing IT systems expanding, enhancing security infrastructure capabilities and increasing the government’s ability to implement effective mission delivery remains inadequate,” the group wrote. They suggest the next bill should include funding for technology transformation, IT infrastructure, remote work, secure cloud adoption, federal operations and digital services.
- Supporting at the State and Local Levels: Technology systems at the state and local levels have been breaking under the crush of citizens requesting benefits, such as unemployment. The letter suggests Congress should either provide direct aid to states to improve benefits IT systems, allocate funding to federal agencies to dole out to specific local programs, or both.
- Cybersecurity: “Without robust funding for cybersecurity, remote collaboration leaves agency networks, clouds, and end points vulnerable,” the group wrote. The letter cites several specific federal programs in need of extra funding, including the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s Trusted Internet Connection program and the Federal Risk Management and Authorization Program, or FedRAMP, housed within the General Services Administration. The letter also requests funding for additional training, bandwidth, remote capacity and connectivity and upgrades to virtual private networks.
- Investment in Modernizing Government Technology: Lastly, the group asked Congress to bolster specific IT modernization funds, including the centrally-managed Technology Modernization Fund, individual agency working capital funds and broader IT funding for “federal departments and agencies on the front lines of coronavirus preparedness and recovery efforts.”