Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, plans to introduce legislation today designed to help federal agencies update their aging technology—and this time, it has White House backing.
Hurd worked alongside White House Office of American Innovation officials Reed Cordish and Chris Liddell in crafting and tweaking the legislation, and called their partnership an “invaluable” part of the process.
"We are excited about today's introduction of the Modernizing Government Technology Act; this important bipartisan work, led by Rep. Will Hurd and Rep. Steny Hoyer, will enable significant progress to be made towards creating a more effective, efficient, and accountable government for all Americans," Cordish and Liddell said in a statement.
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The legislation is a revamped version of the Modernizing Government Technology Act, which Hurd first introduced in 2016 to help agencies refresh systems citizens rely on for integral services, such as tax processing and Social Security benefits. Some of these systems are five decades or older, posing security concerns and costing big bucks. The federal government spends 80 percent of its $80 billion IT budget operating such legacy systems.
“We’ve been fighting to get this bill signed into law because the American people deserve better from their government. A move towards modern technologies can keep our information and digital infrastructure secure from cyberattacks, while saving billions of taxpayer dollars,” Hurd said in a statement.
Hurd’s modified MGT Act contains several tweaks he believes will increase the odds of it landing on President Donald Trump’s desk. The old MGT Act passed the House in September but stalled out in the Senate, in part because the Congressional Budget Office estimated it would cost $9 billion to implement from 2017 through 2021. Hurd said he worked with CBO and sought counsel from the Government Accountability Office to ensure the new bill will save government money, not add to its spending woes.
Hurd’s new version gives agencies the ability to create working IT capital funds in CFO Act agencies, but this time creating these funds would be optional, not mandatory. Working capital funds would be sourced through reprogramming or transfers from existing funds previously used for operation and maintenance of legacy systems.
“To me, the meat of this bill is the working capital funds,” Hurd said. “It gives chief information officers of 24 CFO Act agencies the ability to be innovative. This isn’t a one-size fits all solution, we want to make sure those agencies that want to innovate are well-positioned.”
Under the rules, savings agencies realize by replacing legacy products with new technologies like cloud computing could be placed in a working capital fund for up to three years. Agencies can use those funds for future modernization efforts rather than lose them.
The bill also calls for the creation of a central fund through which agencies could borrow from to spur their modernization efforts. The administrator of that fund would be the Technology Transformation Service commissioner, a position within the General Services Administration now occupied by Rob Cook. The commissioner will oversee a new board charged with reviewing agency’s modernization plans and doling out funds if they are appropriated.
“TTS has proven they can be innovative and we want someone who will administer the centralized fund recognizes the importance of innovation in government,” Hurd said.
The legislation authorizes appropriations of up to $250 million per year for two years for the central fund, much less than the billions allowed for under last year’s MGT Act. To reduce the CBO spending score, the new MGT Act stipulates the money populating all funds can only be drawn from future appropriations acts.
The bill will kick off with bipartisan support: It will be introduced with Reps. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., and Gerry Connolly, D-Va. It also has support from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Sens. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Jerry Moran, R-Kan., who plan to introduce companion legislation to the Senate.
Markups for the bill are scheduled for next week in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.