IT Modernization Fund is a Step in the Right Direction

by Cris Paden

posted on 06-06-2017

Posted by Matt Schrader, Director of Government Relations & Public Policy

On May 17th, the House of Representatives passed HR 2227, the Modernizing Government Technology Act of 2017 (MGT Act). The legislation, sponsored by Congressman Will Hurd of Texas and Congressman Gerry Connolly of Virginia provides for a critical investment by the federal government in IT modernization by authorizing $500 million over the next two fiscal years for this purpose. The MGT Act also establishes working capital funds at the 24 CFO Act agencies.

Last week, the Trump Administration followed suit and proposed $228 million for IT modernization as part of its FY2018 budget submission to Congress. Assuming the Senate follows the House and passes the MGT Act this year, the combined efforts of Congress and the Executive Branch will advance the ball for IT modernization significantly. Now the fun begins.

First and foremost, our hope is that Congress will appropriate money into the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) established by the MGT Act. IT modernization can reshape how government interacts with citizens and save resources for other important policy priorities. This seed money is a critical down payment on IT modernization that is needed to jumpstart the process. Second, agencies must embrace IT modernization in a way that will increase the amount of money made available in their working capital funds. To do this, they must focus on implementing those projects that have the greatest chance of achieving measurable savings and operational efficiencies.

IT modernization must also include a strong focus on cybersecurity. As many recent government and industry studies have pointed out, legacy and aging IT, along with systems that fail to install and update software patches, are among the greatest threats to overall agency cybersecurity. Just last month we saw efforts by hackers thwarted not by offensive cyber counterattacks but because agencies had downloaded software patches sent out in March that closed critical vulnerabilities, according to media reports on the WannaCry ransomware attack.[1] Making funding available for IT modernization, with an emphasis on those systems and networks that are most vulnerable, is an essential step that must be taken to ensure the updating and patching of software. Implementation of Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM), another area highlighted in the president’s budget, needs to be accelerated to increase agency efforts to protect sensitive data and high value assets.

The Trump administration IT budget also focuses on leveraging technology to improve the citizen digital experience – an area where the government is far behind the private sector. As the budget proposal rightly points out, “Americans expect and deserve their interactions with the federal government to be simple, fast and helpful.” Existing technology allows government to deliver on this promise by moving away from paper and in-person transactions to digital, improving the overall efficiency, effectiveness and cost of government using proven commercial technologies.

The president’s FY2018 budget proposal for information technology is a step in the right direction. The more the federal government can leverage proven commercial technologies, the more it will be able to secure its systems and data, modernize aging technology, reduce cost and improve the overall citizen digital experience.

[1] Federal Computers Dodge Malware Attack – This Time, NPR, May 22, 2017

Topics: Data & Privacy