IT & Networks

Major federal IT modernization bill reaches final stretch

The Modernizing Government Technology Act is now only one step away from becoming law, as the bill was recently included in the House and Senate conference report of the National Defense Authorization Act sent to the president Nov. 16.

“Our federal agencies will finally have the motivation to catch up with the 21st century and embrace emerging technologies so that we can leave behind these antiquated legacy IT systems that have plagued our government for decades,” said the bill’s author, Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas. “Instead, we can look forward to providing more efficient, transparent services for the American people and safeguard our systems from cyberattacks. I applaud my colleagues in the House and Senate for working to get MGT across the finish line.”

MGT has had a long road to passage, as the bill was originally introduced in September 2016 as a marriage between Hurd’s previous MOVE IT Act and Rep. Steny Hoyer’s, D-Md., IT Modernization Act. The 2016 bill received widespread support in the House, but stalled in the Senate due to a $9 billion Congressional Budget Office price tag.

For the 2017 reintroduction of the bill, Hurd streamlined the contents, reducing the original $3 billion revolving capital fund to $250 million, and cultivated support and input from the Senate, CBO and White House.

Even with the president’s signature, the $250 million capital fund could be some time in coming, as Congress has yet to appropriate the money, $500 million over a five year period, to fill the fund. A 2018 fiscal year budget has yet to be passed in Congress, though Hurd has said in the past that he does not necessarily expect the revolving capital fund to be appropriated right away.

The new bill passed the House easily in May 2017, but the corresponding Senate version failed to gain traction on the Senate floor. Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Tom Udall, D-N.M., who authored the Senate version, then worked to get the legislation to be included as an amendment to the Senate’s NDAA.

“This bipartisan legislation will propel our inefficient, outdated federal IT systems into the 21st century to promote productivity and strengthen cybersecurity,” said Moran. “Passing the landmark MGT Act will modernize our federal IT infrastructure by incentivizing federal agencies to expeditiously upgrade their systems ― with strong built-in oversight by Congress ― to continuously evolve and protect against cybersecurity threats at home and around the globe.”

“This bipartisan, common-sense effort will help ensure that we’re getting better service at a better value for the American people,” said Udall.

Core to the legislation is the establishment of working capital funds within each agency, allowing chief information officers to store funds saved through IT modernization for up to three years, rather than that money expiring at the end of each fiscal year. That saved money can then be used to invest in further modernization efforts.

Officials from various agencies told members at a recent hearing on the Federal Information Technology Aquisition Reform Act that they are already watching for how such working capital funds will impact their agency’s IT investments.

“The current patchwork of outdated, legacy IT systems is simply unsustainable in the current cyber climate,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va. “This is an important step to making the MGT Act a reality. By leveraging the savings created by FITARA, our legislation will help transition federal IT procurement toward 21st century technologies.”

With the House and Senate conference agreeing to keep the legislation in the NDAA, the president’s signature becomes the next and final step for the bill’s passage.

“Will Hurd has used his expertise and passion to lead the House in policy reforms that bring the federal government into the 21st century,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. “Today’s vote on the National Defense Authorization Act ― which includes MGT ― brings the federal government one step closer to better serving and protecting our citizens.”

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