U.S. CIO Tony Scott: $3B worth of federal IT systems aging out in 3 years

Roughly 80 percent of the Nation’s current information technology budget goes to basic maintenance and service costs.
U.S. CIO Tony Scott spoke at the 2016 Federal Forum presented by Brocade Tuesday

More than $3 billion-worth of currently operational IT equipment used by the federal government — everything from servers to mobile devices — will become obsolete within three years, U.S. Chief Information Officer Tony Scott said Tuesday.

“I asked a few of our largest suppliers” about current equipment, Scott told the 2016 Federal Forum, presented by Brocade and produced by FedScoop. “In the next three years, there’s $3 billion of that stuff that goes end of life. Meaning no more patches, no more … upgrades, no more spare parts, no longer official support from the companies.”

Scott has spoken before about the burden that so-called legacy IT, some of it up to 50 years old, imposes on the federal government, and there was little else new in his remarks.

He repeated his now-familiar mantra that roughly 80 percent of the current U.S. IT budget goes to maintenance and service costs that “keep the lights on” for obsolete systems.


And the other 20 percent? “Every year we pass new laws, we pass changes to laws, we pass new things that we want agencies to do. So a lot of that money [the other 20 percent] goes to just making the changes that are necessary to support this ongoing, living breathing thing that we call the federal government.”

With that spending, “the amount that’s left over to do upgrades and replacements, is precious little,” he said, which underlined the importance of the $3.1 billion IT modernization fund, or ITMF, the administration has proposed.

“ITMF is my best guess at the fastest way to accelerate progress toward this goal” of IT modernization, Scott told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in May. “What won’t work is going around tin-cupping 7,000 investments across the federal government — that’s the slow way to nowhere.”

The ITMF will be a revolving fund, with cash paid back by agencies from the savings they make as a result of the upgrades it funds. With the revolving funding, Scott said Tuesday, the fund could pay for $15 billion worth of modernization over the next five years.

At this point, it remains unclear whether the ITMF will gain enough traction with lawmakers before November’s general election brings a new Congress next year.


A bill originally put forward by Maryland Democrat and House Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer now has 20 co-sponsors from both parties, Scott told the Federal Forum.

He also addressed a cohort of other modernization initiatives — including a broad focus on moving past legacy tech systems to ultimately decrease maintenance costs. He ended the speech by calling for the private sector and federal executives in the room to jointly lobby Congress to authorize the ITMF, which will enable “innovation” in the government.

FedScoop’s Chris Bing contributed to this report.

This story has been corrected. An earlier version reported incorrectly that the figure for IT equipment aging out in three years was new.

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