Oversight Committee Adopts Connolly Amendment to Add $3 Billion to IT Modernization
Yesterday, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform adopted an amendment offered by Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, Chairman of the Government Operations subcommittee, to add more than $3 billion to federal IT modernization efforts. The amendment was included in the Committee markup of the reconciliation package being drafted in the House of Representatives.
“This week, Congress continues our important work in rebuilding from this pandemic, and building a 21st century economy that is more equitable, visionary, and sustainable. But the policy prescriptions we adopt will only be successful if our IT can deliver on those promises,” Connolly said.
The fate of the world’s largest economy rises and falls with the ability of government IT systems to deliver in an emergency and as we recover into the future. And that should galvanize us all. Without smart IT investments, our mission to help the American people, will not succeed. We have to get this right, right now,” Connolly added.
Connolly’s amendment would provide:
Text of the amendment is here.
Connolly’s full remarks at today’s Committee markup in support of the amendment follow:
“In the past year, Congress has passed five emergency relief bills to respond to the covid pandemic, that has help provide testing and vaccines to millions of Americans, and saved the economy from a great depression.
This week, Congress continues our important work in rebuilding from this pandemic, and building a 21st century economy that is more equitable, visionary, and sustainable. Unfortunately, once again, I worry Congress may neglect to include funding to support the crumbling federal IT infrastructure that has hindered access to the relief Congress has provided to millions of Americans.
When the IRS began distributing stimulus checks, millions of people were left waiting for these critical payments because the agency simply could not find accurate direct deposit information. Millions of Americans facing illness, unemployment, food insecurity, and an inability to pay their mortgages or rent were met with busy phone lines, because the agency was forced to close all customer service centers for over a month because it didn’t have the capability to go virtual.
The Small Business Administration’s E-Tran system for submitting applications for the Paycheck Protection Program initially shut out hundreds of thousands of small businesses from obtaining desperately needed assistance. The system – designed to process an average of $20 billion in loans per year – was tasked with facilitating more than $600 billion in loans and collapsed under the volume necessitated by small business owners applying for assistance to keep their livelihoods intact.
And during this pandemic, where 75 percent of the federal workforce have been in a telework status and nearly half of these employees are teleworking for the first time, a foreign adversary was able to gain access to the emails of senior federal officials for nine months, unnoticed.
Congress’s efforts to keep this nation afloat are irrelevant if the very assistance we rush to enact cannot get into the hands of the people who need it.
This Administration thankfully sees this direct link between our nation’s recovery and investment in federal IT. In January, the Biden Administration proposed a $9 billion investment in the Technology Modernization Fund.In the American Rescue Play, Congress ended up providing just $1 billion to the fund. We are squandering an opportunity to revolutionize how government serves this nation. And I can’t let that happen.
When Federal CIO Clare Martorana testified before my Subcommittee in July, she stated that more than 100 agencies have already submitted applications for more than $2 billion in transformational IT modernization projects through the Technology Modernization Fund. And applications continue to flood in.
That is why, today, I am offering an amendment to put an additional $1 billion in TMF funding in this bill.
In addition to boosting funding for the TMF, my amendment would provide $2 billion to the General Services Administration’s (GSA’s) Federal Citizen Services Fund to help agencies employ innovative strategies to improve how the public engages government. The Federal Citizen Services Fund makes government services digitally accessible to the public and improve their quality. The Fund also supports cybersecurity and cloud-based technology initiatives, like FedRAMP. This funding will revolutionize how government uses data and analytics to help agencies make evidence-driven policy decisions. It will enable greater promotion of open data and transparency helping to restore trust in government. This amendment also provides $350 million to the Information Technology Oversight and Reform (ITOR) account within the Office of Management and Budget to evolve the federal IT Dashboard to help track government IT spending. The ITOR account helps fund staffing for the U.S. Digital Service, the federal government’s tactical squad to help agencies fix their toughest tech problems.
My amendment enables meaningful improvements in the effectiveness and cybersecurity of public-serving applications of federal IT. It helps agencies Build Back Better.
The Government Accountability Office found that the ten most critical federal IT legacy systems in need of modernization are maintained by ten different federal agencies — each performing essential government operations. These 10 systems were between 8 and 51 years old and cost about $337 million collectively each year to operate and maintain. In addition to the direct monetary costs of these systems are the sheer security risks they represent. They’re vulnerable honeypots to nation state adversaries who want to hack in and steal our nation’s vulnerable information. The recent enterprise-wide SolarWinds cybersecurity breach demonstrates these dire consequences.
These IT investments will modernize legacy systems and help us craft the workforce we need to drive government into the digital government future.
If the technology infrastructure for delivering federal assistance is unreliable or unavailable, then no amount of policy or expertise, political will, or subject matter expertise can save this nation.
In February, the Chairwoman, who has been a partner on this issue, agreed to work together toward securing more funding, and I look forward to continuing to work with her to do just that, and to educate our colleagues, both here in the House and in the Senate, on the importance of supporting federal IT modernization.
When the pandemic began, the responses we created in Congress for unemployment insurance, public health, and shoring up direct payments to Americans were predicated on moving swiftly. The public policy response was there, but our IT couldn’t deliver.
The fate of the world’s largest economy rises and falls with the ability of government IT systems to deliver in an emergency and as we recover into the future. And that should galvanize us all. Without smart IT investments, our mission to help the American people, will not succeed. We have to get this right, right now.”