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Federal IT Modernization Fund's Financial Needs Attract Lawmakers' Scrutiny

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Despite initiatives like the Technology Modernization Fund, the U.S. federal government continues to struggle with outdated IT systems, creating cybersecurity risks, unmet mission needs, and staffing issues. At House subcommittee hearings, members clashed over funding and oversight of these issues.

Federal Chief Information Officer Clare Martorana testified Friday at a hearing on “Federal Information Technology Project: Making IT Work” for the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee’s Subcommittee on Government Operations. The hearings follow the White House’s Information Technology Operations Plan, which she issued in June. The plan provides a guide for governments to deploy safer, easier-to-use, cost-effective and modern technology. Her four areas of focus are cybersecurity, IT modernization, customer experience and data.

Two issues that came up repeatedly during the hearings were the government’s use of legacy systems and funding programs to help government agencies address them (the Technology Modernization Fund). Delegates focused on the federal CIO’s office and the Office of Management and Budget’s non-compliance with the TMF, particularly with respect to reimbursement.

TMF was established through the Defense Authorization Act of December 2017 with initial funding of $250 million. Unlike regular IT budgets granted to government agencies, the TMF is designed to lend money to various government agencies’ IT modernization projects, and the agencies repay the funds through savings achieved after modernization. be responsible for However, the majority of projects currently funded under the TMF are still listed as “active” for repayment.

Subcommittee Chair Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.) said in his opening remarks:

Specifically, Connolly noted that to date the TMF has awarded approximately $600 million to 28 unclassified projects across 17 federal agencies. At previous hearings, 60 agencies had applied for funding to support his more than 130 projects, totaling him $2.5 billion, more than double his funding provided by Congress. is. He added that Congress must continue to support TMF’s funding and modernization efforts.

Ranking member Jody Heiss, Republican of Georgia, said while some would like to raise more money, “simply pouring more money into a black hole is not the solution. What we need is credible monitoring backed by reliable information to determine the true state of federal IT—whether federal IT projects are delivering on time and within budget. It all needs oversight, it needs accountability.”

Martorana said the TMF was recently awarded $1 billion through an American bailout plan to modernize federal technology, but decommissioning legacy systems and upgrading the technology would take years and only one. That “down payment” amount is not enough, he added, as it can cost billions of dollars in system of an institution.

Connolly asked why the government needs more money when it spends about $100 billion a year overall. He also questioned why more money is needed “to encourage government agencies to retire legacy systems.”

Martorana noted that her team had only seen one modernization proposal from TMF last year, which she claimed indicated that “something wasn’t meeting the agency’s needs.” .

The proposed solution was to open the specific TMF requirements agreement, including redemption requirements, timelines and payment status, to Congress as well as the public.

In addition to funding challenges, Hice pointed to the lack of a standardized definition of “legacy systems.” This has proven to be a problem as inconsistency can create confusion and failure.

Martorana said the legacy designation means “systems that do not meet the mission needs of the institution.”

By her definition, the old system does not necessarily equate to the legacy moniker.

“Sometimes we can actually run on some legacy systems that still have operational potential,” she said. “But I believe that the legacy systems that Wholesale needs to modernize her IT are the ones that fail the agency’s mission and adequately serve the American people.”

However, Connolly challenges her definition and finds that an important element of the term is ignored.

“The word legacy means old,” he said. “And what’s been handed down from the past not only doesn’t meet my needs today, it’s because the new system may not work. I think I need to explain to

Connolly cites the IRS as an example of a government agency that uses legacy systems, but is either concerned about modernizing them or claims the systems still work. However, Connolly adds: It’s energy inefficient and, by definition, fewer and fewer people over the age of 40 know how to use the language they need. ”

He also asked if there were concerns that legacy systems were inefficient, prone to failure, and susceptible to hacking.

“Legacy is a difficult subject,” Martorana said. “We should run U.S. federal government operations with the latest technology available. Shutdown. Basic cybersecurity if we are going to bring a digital transformation to the American people in our lifetime. And we need to improve our operational presence in technology, which will take years of investment, and to get out of this tech debt that almost all agencies carry.”

Heiss questioned how good governments are at actually decommissioning legacy systems despite billions of dollars being spent on this effort. However, there is no clear source of how the funds are being used. Martorana pointed out that along with each agency’s respective budget, the IT dashboard is a good place to start. However, both ranking members and federal CIOs expressed concerns about the reliability of the dashboard data and information.

“The system is up and running, so you can trust it, but the system is only as good as the data that goes into it, and that’s the data that comes from the federal CIO,” says Martorana. “It is their responsibility to enter data into the IT dashboard on behalf of the agency in their program.”

Martorana also said CIOs at government agencies have to enter this data manually, and some agencies still rely heavily on paper, making the manual process tedious, time-consuming, and susceptible to human error. said to be acceptable. However, she added that her team will verify and clean the submitted data.

“In many areas of technology, we have made progress. APIs for taking machine-readable data, collecting data, analyzing data, and creating actionable insights from that data. and automated methods,” says Martorana. “These are all manual data calls that agencies are filing. All of us with data can make more informed decisions from the datasets available.”

She said that as modernization occurs, “it’s important to think about business processes, not just move old obsolete stuff.” [systems and equipment]”