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Rep. Gerry Connolly shares some of the highs and lows of today's federal market

Much is to be said about the current state, and the future of, the federal IT contracting landscape. Some of it is good, and some of it isn't.

“A lot of [federal spending] is spent on maintaining legacy systems, and we are very concerned about trying to modernize how the federal government does that,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, (D-Va.), speaking at the Professional Services Council's Vision conference.

“We also want to modernize the management of IT in terms of imbuing a CIO with accountability, responsibility and flexibility,” he said. There are 250 people at government agencies with the title of CIO, so defining that position might require some streamlining.

In the same vein, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, on which Connolly serves, is still focused on moving agencies to the cloud, he said, giving a nod to the private sector, who he believes is the key to agencies successfully moving to the cloud. There are, however, some civilian agencies that are resisting that move, Connolly added, mainly due to security concerns.

Some good news, however, is that the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) still has bipartisan support, and Connolly said his committee is focused on following its implementation and oversight.

An additional bill, the Modernizing Government Technology Act, was passed in the House of Representatives in September, and Connolly is hoping it will be passed in Congress’ current lame duck session.

The MGT bill authorizes funds to replace legacy IT, combining a cloud funding measure originating in the Senate and an Obama administration-backed bill that calls for a $3.1 billion governmentwide revolving fund to retire and replace legacy systems.

Connolly and a bipartisan team that includes Reps. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.), Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Will Hurd (R-Texas) are advocating for the bill.

One of the things that remains to be seen, however, is who will take over all of the now open positions in the government with the transition to the Trump administration, and once that is done, Connolly said, and who among them will care about IT issues.

He also is concerned about the federal hiring freeze that Trump lists in his action plan once he takes office. “Cybersecurity in the federal government needs to grow, and a blind, across-the-board freeze is inferentially saying that all missions are the same, that all missions have the same value,” he said. “Well, they don’t. They clearly don’t.”

Another issue is the method by which defense spending will be ramped up; Connolly spoke about how almost 45 percent of all federal contracts in his district are civilian contracts, warning that reducing civilian spending in order to fund defense spending—while also reducing overall federal revenue—could be disastrous.

“Maybe the short term will benefit, but in the long term, we’re going to face serious crunches in the ability to do our jobs and grow the country,” he said.

Connolly mentioned also how digital service initiatives, like 18F, are candidates for the chopping block for a number of reasons, especially since they do not have a political constituency. FedRAMP is also a concern, he added, noting that the program flies in the face of its own mission.

“It is not efficient, it has not streamlined the process, and it is wrapped up in bureaucracy,” he said. “And I am deeply concerned that that was allowed to happen.”

Ending on a positive note, Connolly spoke about how less government means more outsourcing, and more outsourcing means more opportunity for contractors in the years to come.

About the Author

Mark Hoover is a senior staff writer with Washington Technology. You can contact him at mhoover@washingtontechnology.com, or connect with him on Twitter at @mhooverWT.

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