Industry group urges Senate to pass modernization legislation


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Though some senators may be caught up in election hubbub, the Professional Services Council is urging them to take action now on the Modernizing Government Technology Act — before the legislative session comes to a close.

The Modernizing Government Technology Act, designed to help agencies modernizing their aging systems, would create individual IT working capital funds for each of the 24 CFO Act agencies and a centralized IT modernization fund housed in the Treasury Department that executive branch agencies could apply to draw from. The bill sailed through the House on a unanimous voice vote but hasn’t yet seen much action in the Senate.

[Read more: IT Modernization bill passes house unanimously]

In a letter sent to several senators Friday, PSC called the bill a “balanced compromise of the interests of the agencies, [the Office of Management and Budget] and stakeholders in Congress.”

“There is an important opportunity but a very limited window of time for this session of Congress to act on vital legislation to improve cybersecurity and address concerns with the government’s legacy IT systems,” PSC President and CEO David Berteau saidin a statement. “Congress and the Executive Branch should use this narrow window of opportunity to pass this important legislation and kick-start the modernizing and upgrading of federal information technology as well as enabling the adoption of new technologies to help make government more effective.”

The letter notes the legislation “will address many cybersecurity vulnerabilities inherent in the government’s outdated computer systems.”

On the House floor in September, Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., who co-authored the bill with Hurd, urged Congress to pass the bill to better-secure agency systems.

“The United States government must come in to the 21st century,” he said then. “We owe it to the people we serve to protect the systems that operate within the 24 federal agencies we’re particularly concerned about.”

Others urge for the bill’s passage to help agencies redirect their spending on new efforts, not on maintaining legacy systems. Indeed, a recent IDC Government Insights report found some agencies are spending 90 percent or more of their IT budgets on operations and maintenance.

The report reveals 77.7 percent of proposed agency IT budgets for fiscal year 2017 are going to operations and maintenance, with the remaining sliver dedicated to systems development and enhancement.

That essentially means that agencies are spending more than three-quarters of their IT budgets — a number that continues to grow — on “support for legacy systems,” Shawn McCarthy, research director for IDC Government Insights, wrote in a blog post at the time.

[Read more: Some agencies spending 90-percent of IT budget on legacy systems — report]

There have been reports that Texas Republican Rep. Will Hurd’s bill could face opposition in the Senate. In response to that Hurd told FedScoop in September, “I’ve heard these rumors as well, but I’m not hearing these rumors from the folks in the Senate that deal with these things.”

“You can’t operate in a bubble, right?,” Hurd said then. “And I think that’s what happens too much up here is that if you really want to get something signed into law you have to begin with the end in mind. And part of that is…how do your companions in the Senate view this? And can we get something that can move? And so the [Modernizing Government Technology Act] had that input. And so we’ve been engaging with the leads over there and appropriate committee staff there.”

He also noted it is not possible to make everyone “happy.”

“So there’s one or two people who aren’t happy, and they want to create future problems down the road,” Hurd said. “But I do know that all the major pieces of this are supported by our friends on the Senate side.”

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Congress, Government IT News, Professional Services Council