House Passes Hurd-Connolly MGT Act

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Washington, May 17, 2017 | comments
Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA), a coauthor the Modernizing Government Technology Act of 2017, released the following statement after the House passed the MGT Act today.

“I am pleased the MGT Act has once again passed the House and is now one step closer to becoming law,” said Congressman Connolly. “The current patchwork of outdated, legacy IT systems is simply unsustainable in the current cyber climate. By leveraging the savings created by FITARA, our legislation will help transition federal IT procurement towards 21st century technologies.”

Under the MGT Act, savings from IT modernization, including FITARA implementation, would be placed into a working capital fund that can be accessed for up to two years for additional modernization efforts. This approach eliminates the traditional use-it or lose-it approach that has plagued government technology for decades. The MGT Act will help agencies move to the cloud, improve cybersecurity and realize additional efficiencies.

Changes to the MGT Act include:

• The centralized fund is authorized for appropriation for 2 years instead of unlimited years. The limit for appropriation per year is $250m.
• Changes to ensure that agencies can only use future funds for modernization. This was the goal of the first versions, but we didn't have the language structured correctly.
• The working capital funds now have 5 years to pay back the Technology Modernization Fund if they borrow modernization funds. IT was unlimited before.

Connolly’s full prepared Floor remarks follow:

“I rise in strong support of this bill, HR 2227, the Modernizing Government Technology Act of 2017.

Over the past few years, we have all witnessed the havoc that sophisticated cyber-attacks can wreak on our nation. This past week there was a massive ransomware attack that hit approximately 200,000 victims in 150 countries and those numbers are expected to grow.

This is just the latest in a string of high profile attacks including Sony, Yahoo, the OPM data breach, and even efforts to influence our elections. These attacks jeopardize Americans’ safety and privacy, and they cost untold millions of dollars. These attacks affect both the public and private sector, and bad actors repeatedly target the federal government.

Those attacks often succeed because federal computer systems are so outdated that they cannot implement network defenses as basic as encryption.

The federal government spends nearly $60 billion a year sustaining its existing Information Technology systems. When agencies are forced to spend nearly 80 percent of their IT budgets to maintain legacy computer systems, they have fewer resources to modernize them. As a result, agencies often cannot afford to invest in the modern technologies that other large enterprises need to survive. Many federal agencies do not use cloud computing to help secure computer networks and improve our ability to deliver services to the American people.

The Modernizing Government Technology Act, introduced by my colleagues, Representatives Hurd and Kelly, and on which I am proud to be the lead Democratic cosponsor, is a critical step to help improve the federal government’s IT systems.

The Modernizing Government Technology Act of 2017 will help our cyber defenders protect our most important digital resources. This bill marries two bills from the previous Congress that I was proud to support, the IT Modernization Act and the MOVE IT Act.

The MGT Act establishes a clear role for both of these pieces of legislation in the improvement of federal IT systems. I was glad to be in on the ground floor for both of these bills.

I was an original cosponsor for Whip Steny Hoyer’s IT Modernization Act, which created a revolving fund, using a $3 billion appropriation from the Treasury, to replace legacy systems.
I was also an original cosponsor of the MOVE IT Act, which revived a proposal first discussed during the drafting and amending of FITARA.

I saw these two bills as very different but complementary and worked to ultimately join the two to create the MGT Act, which is a welcome outgrowth of the effort we began with FITARA.

The MGT Act lays the foundation for the future of IT modernization funding. The MGT Act will authorize an upfront investment to retire vulnerable, large-scale legacy systems affecting multiple agencies. This bipartisan, bicameral legislation would provide mechanisms and much-needed funding for agencies to speed-up the process of moving from legacy IT systems to cutting-edge technologies. It also would provide needed reporting requirements to ensure that agencies are acquiring modern technology in a cost effective way.

The bill places an emphasis on following the practices of private industry and moving toward cloud-computing solutions. The MGT Act language will allow agencies to reinvest savings generated through the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act and other reforms to retire legacy systems. The MGT Act will establish working capital funds that will allow agencies to use savings from modernization efforts to invest in new, secure systems and accelerate movement to the cloud.
This creates an incentive for agencies to find savings and reinvest them internally, creating a virtuous cycle.

The Modernizing Government Technology Act is supported by industry experts and incorporates the same sort of mechanisms the private sector uses to secure its networks. It’s important for agencies to know that Congress not only expects agencies to implement robust, modern cyber safeguards, but that it is here to help them overcome the funding and budgeting challenges they face.

This reform has the potential to speed up significantly the federal government’s move to 21st century technologies and HR 2227 is an important step toward defending our nation’s critical IT infrastructure.

I urge my colleagues to support this bill.”
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