With various federal information technology systems outdated, there is a widespread concern for the constrained performance, security risks they pose, and inefficiently expensive costs toward maintenance. It has never been more evident that the entire government needs to undergo an information technology reformation.
In fact, the fiscal year 2017 budget gives 77 percent of the funds for IT to operating and maintaining these old systems, systems that are soon going to be unrecognizable.
The system that helps the Internal Revenue System assess tax payments and generate refunds every tax season is 56 years old, an ancient relic in terms of the fast movement of the technology sector. Even worse, the nuclear forces are still coordinated on a system over 50 years old and relying on an eight-inch floppy disk — a device that is all but forgotten.
To help agency leaders address IT reformation throughout the government, the Partnership for Public Service and Accenture Federal Services collaborated to create a brief entitled “Leading Ambitious Technology Reforms in Government.” The brief is the second in a series and provides agency leaders various explanations and helpful tips for reforming agency IT.
Several challenges face agencies that wish to modernize their IT systems. Systems have only grown more complex overtime, and not from advanced technologies. Rather, agencies have continually patched systems together, using computers from today with those from the 1970s. These complicated systems will need to be understood — from their history to their application — before a system reformation can take place.
Furthermore, agency leaders will need to understand, and anticipate, the funding is not under their complete control. Rather, lengthy processes will require agency leaders to look into the future and attempt to account for technology that has yet to be conceived, create a budget within decimal-point-precision and follow all restrictions on the budget Congress puts forth.
Despite these challenges, the government “is on the verge of a paradigm shift … becoming completely different than operating technology in past decades,” Dave McClure, the former associate administrator at the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies at the General Services Administration, told the Partnership and Accenture.
With the American Technology Council, the Modernizing Government Technology Act and the May 2017 executive order called “Strengthening the Cybersecurity of Federal Networks and Critical Infrastructure” building on the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act, government leaders are being given an opportunity to take concrete steps to drive bold IT reforms in their agencies.
To achieve IT transformations, an agenda of change management, busting cultures, empowering doers and garnering quick wins must be implemented. The Partnership and Accenture brief attempts to explain the fundamentals and highlight important realities of this federal IT environment to new career and political leaders who are in a position to harness the power of technology to accomplish agency goals.