Federal CIOs and industry execs gathered on the Hill Thursday evening to celebrate the passage of the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act and map the path ahead. Judging by the standing-room-only crowd, seems government, industry, and the Hill are betting big on the legacy IT euthanasia program to break Federal IT’s failing status quo.

Connolly for Change

MGT cosponsor Congressman Gerry Connolly, D-Va., got the crowd’s attention with pragmatic insights on MGT. He praised the strong bipartisan support for the bill.

“We need to free up more of the $96 billion we spend on IT each year for innovative investments,” Connolly thundered. “Modernizing the systems in Federal IT is a critical part of security–we have systems that are 20, 30, 40 years old. IRS has systems that go back to the Johnson administration. We now clearly understand that the longer we wait, the more vulnerable we are.”

Connolly stressed the requirement for MGT to fit within the FITARA framework. “We want to empower CIOs,” said Connolly. “While private-sector organizations have one CIO, we have 250 CIOs across 24 Federal agencies. There’s no empowerment to make bold decisions and stick by them. We’ve got to empower the whole system, and personnel are key.”

He focused the audience on the lessons of the past and underscored bipartisan commitment and requirement for leadership from the White House. “We need to look at data center consolidation so we can move to the cloud and break down our stovepipes. When we started data center consolidation, we were told we had 1,600. Vivek Kundra at the White House at the time said let’s cut that to 800. Our FITARA bill was more aggressive–let’s cut to 400. We required agencies to get serious about reporting. And, we found out agencies didn’t have 1,600, they had 12,000. We understand the lessons of the past, that’s why we need this working capital fund–and Will Hurd, Mark Meadows, Robert Kelly, and myself are very committed to Federal IT modernization on a bi-partisan basis.”

White House and Appropriation Central MGT Fund

“Mick Mulvaney who is at OMB used to sit on our committee–Oversight and Government Reform–he went to our hearings, he’s aware of the legislative context,” he continued. “I think he’s committed to make sure we get the appropriation to fully fund MGT.”

Roat and the Road Ahead:

As Connolly regaled the audience, news broke that OMB announced the seven members of the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) Board who will review the centralized and agency-specific revolving capital funds. One TMF member, Maria Roat, CIO at the Small Business Administration (SBA), followed Connolly to the podium.

“It’s been a year and a half since I’ve been at SBA–we’ve come a long way,” said Roat. “The CFO has been incredibly supportive of SBA’s transformation–we could not have accomplished so much without his and the CHCO’s support.  IT modernization is not easy–it’s been a tough journey. We could certainly have used the working capital fund last year and we certainly plan to put it to good use this year. “

“I’m looking forward to working on the TMF board,” Roat enthused. “It’ll be interesting to see the submissions from the agencies across the government–what types of things they are submitting, not just within agency stovepipes, but across agencies, and looking for those synergies.”

New MGT How To and FITARA Recognition Awards:

MeriTalk announced plans for a new “MGT: How To” series of programs–that will help agencies craft business cases and provide peer dialogue for agencies working on MGT applications. MeriTalk also previewed a new FITARA awards recognition program–based on agencies FITARA grades. Congressman Gerry Connolly will serve as the honorary chair for the new MeriTalk FITARA awards program.

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Joe Franco
Joe Franco
Joe Franco is a Program Manager, covering IT modernization, cyber, and government IT policy for MeriTalk.com.