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FCW : March 15, 2016
President Barack Obama put the federal govern- ment’s portfolio of aging IT systems front and center in his final budget request to Congress. Although combined IT spending for civilian agencies, the military and the intelli- gence community totals just under $90 billion in a proposed discretionary budget of more than $1 trillion, technology is getting lots of attention from the administration. The proposal includes a 35 percent uptick in cybersecu- rity spending, for a total of $19 billion. The White House is also proposing a $3.1 billion revolving Information Tech- nology Modernization fund for agencies to upgrade legacy technology, to be managed by the General Services Admin- istration. In addition, the White House plans to name a chief information security officer to coordinate cybersecurity efforts across civilian agencies. Furthermore, Obama highlighted legacy technology in Feb. 9 remarks at the White House. “I just want to say as an aside here [that] one of the biggest gaps between the public sector and the private sector is in our IT space, and it makes everybody’s information vulnerable,” Obama said. “Our Social Security system still runs on a Cobol platform that dates back to the ’60s. Our IRS systems are archaic, as with a whole host of other agencies that are consis- tently collecting data on every American. If we’re going to really secure those in a serious way, then we need to upgrade them.“ He went on to say that “it doesn’t matter whether there’s a Democratic president or a Republican president. If you’ve got broken, old systems — computers, mainframes, soft- ware that doesn’t work anymore — then you can keep on putting a bunch of patches on it, but it’s not going to make it safe.” The IT Modernization fund, which will require new leg- islation to enact, is designed to kick-start more than $12 billion in modernization projects over 10 years. Projects would be selected by a team of experts in cybersecurity, acquisition and agile development, and prioritized based on their scale, impact and the extent to which their success lowers overall cybersecurity risk for federal IT systems. The fund would be replenished by savings agencies achieve by migrating to more cost-effective, scalable platforms. The idea for the fund is similar to a plan being floated in early drafts of a bipartisan cloud computing bill that is being prepared for introduction this session. Michael Hettinger, a former senior congressional staffer who has been consulting on the bill, told FCW he was “excited to see the language in the president’s budget” but noted that “revolving capital funds have always been difficult to get funded in Congress [and] $3.1 billion is a lot of money.” Obama’s budget positions the revolving fund as critical to federal IT security. Budget documents state that about 71 percent, or $37 billion, of the proposed civilian IT budget is devoted to legacy systems, which can be hard to secure against hackers. The president added that he was going to be paying attention to agencies’ implementation of these plans and will be “holding their feet to the fire to make sure that they execute on this in a timely fashion.” Bigger IT budgets for agencies Almost every agency is in line for an IT budget increase over fiscal 2016 enacted levels. Of the Cabinet agencies, only the State Department, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Veterans Affairs — three agencies that have been under fire for IT failures in recent years — are in line for decreases in funding. The Republican-controlled Congress is expected to reject some of the proposed increases. For instance, an Obama administration request for more than $343 million for business systems modernization at the IRS will likely end up on the cutting room floor. The budget proposal promises that improvements will modernize “core tax systems and fundamentally change how taxpayers inter- act with the IRS, including the creation of online tax filing March 15, 2016 FCW.COM 15 The U.S . Digital Service continues to prosper under the Obama administration. In a February call with reporters, U.S . CIO Tony Scott said the budget proposal calls for USDS to grow to about 500 employees across the government. The administration is seeking $18 million for the USDS headquarters at the Office of Management and Budget, but that’s just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to funding the cadre of Silicon Valley-style coders that is being dis- persed throughout the government. Although a full tally is not available, there are pockets of proposed USDS spending at various agencies that will likely be several multiples of the OMB allocation. U.S. Digital Service grows APIMAGES 031516fcw_014-016.indd 15 2/24/16 1:00 PM
March 30, 2016