Several information technology interest groups joined together to call on Congress to fund IT modernization efforts across all levels of government, as it tries to serve citizens and ensure cybersecurity while responding to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Outdated government IT systems and processes already hinder some federal and state agencies’ ability to deliver aid to new applicants for small business loans and unemployment insurance,” the groups wrote to congressional leadership April 15. “The COVID-19 pandemic also exposes the need to redouble efforts to digitize federal forms and reduce reliance on hand-processing paperwork for high priority response and relief efforts.”
The letter is signed by the Alliance for Digital Innovation, the Center for Procurement Advocacy, CompTIA, the Cybersecurity Coalition, the Information Technology Industry Council and the Internet Association.
The letter is addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.; Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.; and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
In the letter, the groups suggested that Congress take action to ensure agencies from the federal level down to the tribal and territorial levels have adequate funding for IT modernization. The groups specifically pointed to agencies that are on the front lines of the pandemic, such as the Small Business Administration, which recently experienced a loans system crash, according to POLITICO.
The letter also called for more money for the Technology Modernization Fund, a pot of money at the General Services Administration that is used in partnership with federal agencies on modernization projects. In the House draft of the last coronavirus relief bill, House Democrats suggested $3 billion for the fund. In the fiscal 2020 appropriations bill passed in December, the fund received $25 million.
The letter calls for a funding level that “would allow for meaningful investment in cross-agency IT modernization initiatives.”
The groups also called on Congress to ensure IT modernization appropriation includes “focused attention and investment" on cybersecurity, workforce training and process transformation.
In a separate document, titled “Principles for IT Modernization in Future Stimulus Package,” the groups said that the last coronavirus relief package didn’t provide enough funding for cybersecurity needs related to a remote workforce.
The document called for funding to bolster bandwidth and remote capacity; upgrade virtual private networks; increase the use of the Department of Homeland Security’s Trusted Internet Connection 3.0; and boost funds for the GSA’s Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, which approves cloud tools for use in the federal government.
“In this new era of remote collaboration, government must take advantage of the opportunities created to modernize processes for efficiency, security, and cost savings — but must also act to reduce inherent risks associated with an increased reliance on connected technology that leaves agency networks and information vulnerable without appropriate safeguards,” the groups wrote.
Andrew Eversden covers all things defense technology for C4ISRNET. He previously reported on federal IT and cybersecurity for Federal Times and Fifth Domain, and worked as a congressional reporting fellow for the Texas Tribune. He was also a Washington intern for the Durango Herald. Andrew is a graduate of American University.