Rep. Will Hurd’s Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act passed the House of Representatives by voice vote on May 17.

“Our government needs to be able to introduce cutting-edge technology into their networks to improve operational efficiency and decrease operational costs. This bipartisan IT reform package is designed to reduce wasteful IT spending and strengthen information security by accelerating the Federal government’s transition to modern technology like cloud computing,” said Hurd, R-Texas. “This legislation is an innovative solution and a tremendous step forward in strengthening our digital infrastructure.”

“It will not be a controversial bill. It will not make the front page of the paper tomorrow,” said Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md. “But this bill may well have a very great consequence to IT and to the efficiency and effectiveness of our Federal government.”

The bill calls for the voluntary creation of revolving capital funds within Federal agencies and a Federal governmentwide technology modernization fund, both of which are designed to provide agencies with funding to modernize outdated IT systems.

“The two funds will incentivize IT savings and reward cost-sensitive and responsible chief information officers. Under MGT, savings obtained by Federal agencies by doing things like streamlining IT systems, replacing legacy products, and transitioning to cloud computing can be placed in a working capital fund that can be accessed throughout the three years for further modernization efforts,” said Hurd.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., pointed to recent mass cyberattacks, such as the WannaCry malware, as reason to quickly modernize Federal systems with newer and more secure versions.

“Those attacks often succeed because Federal computer systems are so outdated that they cannot implement network defenses as basic as encryption. Some legacy systems go back a half a century,” said Connolly.

A similar version of the bill passed the House last year, but was stalled in the Senate due to a $9 billion cost estimate by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

“This bill passed the House on voice vote last year and passed the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee by voice this year. Unfortunately, we ran out of time on this bill last Congress with the Senate, but we have the opportunity to act this year with an improved bill,” said Hurd.

Hurd told MeriTalk that he worked with the CBO on this version of the bill to reduce the cost to an estimated $500 million.

The bill was sponsored by both Democrats and Republicans, and was championed by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, D-Calif., as an example of bipartisan cooperation. MGT also has companion legislation introduced in the Senate last month, and has already received broad support from industry.

“CSRA is pleased to see the broad, bipartisan support for the Modernizing Government Technology Act,” said CSRA president and CEO Larry Prior. “As recent cyber threats have shown, time is of the essence to upgrade our government’s critical IT infrastructure. Today’s passage in the House is an important step, and we congratulate Congressman Will Hurd, Congresswoman Robin Kelly, and Congressman Gerry Connolly on this achievement. We hope the companion legislation championed by Senator [Jerry] Moran and Senator [Tom] Udall receives quick consideration in the Senate as well.”

Mark McLaughlin, CEO of Palo Alto Networks, said, “We applaud today’s passage of the bipartisan Modernizing Government Technology Act in the House of Representatives, and believe it is a critical step to addressing the urgent issue of strengthening the efficiency and security of the Federal government’s information technology systems. With the cyber threat landscape constantly evolving, the Federal government cannot continue to divert people and resources toward maintaining antiquated systems, instead of adopting IT systems with agile security technology that can protect digital infrastructure at scale. The Modernizing Government Technology Act will enable the Federal government to adopt state-of-the-art infrastructure and next-generation security technology—from cloud computing to machine learning and virtualized systems.”

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Jessie Bur
Jessie Bur
Jessie Bur is a Staff Reporter for MeriTalk covering Cybersecurity, FedRAMP, GSA, Congress, Treasury, DOJ, NIST and Cloud Computing.