CAPITOL HILL

Congressman says IT modernization could pass in lame duck session

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on FCW.com

The 114th Congress is on a short clock, and it's not clear whether there will be time to pass landmark IT modernization legislation designed to create new funding streams to move agencies off outdated legacy IT and into managed services.

Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), who won reelection in a squeaker, is hopeful that there's still time to move the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act through the Senate before the end of the year.

"I think there is space," Hurd told FCW. "I'm having a number of conversations today to try to get this done."

Lawmakers returned to Washington for a short post-election week, mostly for insider business such as leadership elections. After a Thanksgiving recess, Congress must pass a short-term continuing resolution by Dec. 9 to keep the government open through March. That could prove to be easier than the full-year continuing resolution, but it is still bound to consume legislative time.

The MGT Act would give agencies the authority to reprogram funds (with the blessing of appropriators) to upgrade out-of-support technology and establish a governmentwide fund to address major projects. The bill passed the House on a voice vote in September.

"To be able to get something like this done a week before we broke for elections is a pretty good sign that both sides think it's valuable," Hurd said.

He predicted that the MGT Act and the general move to streamline government IT acquisition and development will find favor in President-elect Donald Trump's administration.

"The incoming administration is going to recognize the importance of having someone of the caliber of Tony Scott to replace Tony Scott [as U.S. CIO]," Hurd said. "Given the incoming president's business acumen, he will recognize the value of having that talent" in the CIO post, in the U.S. chief information security officer post and on innovation teams such as 18F and the U.S. Digital Service.

Scott is still pushing the MGT Act as time runs out on the Obama administration. At a Nov. 18 event in Washington, he said the way IT projects are funded doesn't favor modernization.

"The current funding mechanism ensures that we're cementing in place siloed implementations of technology," he said. "In order to break that, we need to invent a new funding mechanism."

Asked about the chances of moving the MGT Act in the next session of Congress, possibly as part of an infrastructure package floated by Trump, Hurd said, "I haven't moved to Plan B yet. I think Plan A is still a possibility."

He plans to continue as chairman of the IT Subcommittee of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. But the former CIA officer also is interested in a possible vacancy on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence now that Trump has nominated Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) to lead the CIA.

"That's my background and that's my passion. I think it would fit nicely," Hurd said, adding that as far as committee assignments go, he serves at the pleasure of the speaker of the House.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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