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FCW : November and December 2016
Small agencies are not included in a potential linchpin of federal IT modern- ization — the Modernizing Government Technology Act, which would set aside money for agencies to move less secure legacy IT systems to the cloud. The MGT Act passed the House, and backers in the Senate plan to release a companion bill after the election. The legislation could pave the way for appropriators to set aside billions of dollars for agencies to update old technology. Kirit Amin, CIO at the International Trade Commission, said he would like small agencies to be included in the legislation. Only the 24 large agencies covered by the Chief Financial Offi- cers Act are eligible for the $3 billion IT modernization pool in the MGT Act. “Small agencies need a seat at the table” in discussions about the bill and with IT modernization leaders across government, such as the CIO Council, Amin said, elaborating on a presenta- tion he gave at ACT-IAC’s recent Execu- tive Leadership Conference. A Capitol Hill source said the por- tion of the MGT Act that covers work- ing capital funds for legacy IT systems is written along the same lines as the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act and the Data Center Optimization Initia- tive. Smaller agencies could be writ- ten into the MGT Act in theory, but “we wouldn’t want to circumvent FITARA.” Amin said other programs have helped smaller agencies with cyber- security and legacy systems without breaking their budgets, such as the Gen- eral Services Administration’s Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program for cloud solutions and the Department of Homeland Security’s Continuous Diagnostics and Mitiga- tion program. More such centrally offered services from larger, more experienced agencies could go a long way toward helping small and independent agencies keep up with a rapidly evolving threat land- scape, Amin added. He said a sustained effort to keep attention on IT modernization is essen- tial so that the momentum to pass the MGT Act is not lost during the upcom- ing transition. Despite the uncertainty, career federal IT managers must contin- ue to push for modernization, he added. — Mark Rockwell November/December 2016 FCW.COM 7 Can small agencies piggyback on modernization plans? Trending of federal IT workers provide at least occasional support for personally owned devices, a SolarWinds survey found 68% This issue of FCW went to press on Wednesday, Nov. 9, less than 12 hours after Donald Trump was declared president-elect. And although campaign politics are not our focus, running the federal government is — so it’s safe to say there will be plenty of changes to cover in the coming days. For federal employees, many of those changes could be unpleasant. Trump has promised a governmentwide hiring freeze and changes to civil service laws to make it easier to fire career staff, while members of his inner circle have suggested stripping fed- eral labor unions of their collective bargaining rights. IT, however, is among the least partisan of federal issues. Cybersecu- rity will still be a pervasive concern when the Trump team takes office, and the solutions can’t be catego- rized as Democratic or Republican. Outdated systems must still be replaced, and there’s no conservative or liberal approach to IT modernization. Funding and budgets, of course, are always political, but a vast majority of the efforts to be funded — analyt- ics, cloud, mobile, shared services, software-defined systems and more — are eminently practical and pragmatic. And even on the people front, there are flickers of continuity. Mul- tiple members of 18F, the General Services Administration-based IT shop created to bring Silicon Valley sensibilities into government, posted online essays on Election Night explaining why their commitment to government service was not contin- gent on who holds the White House. Government IT isn’t meant to serve a particular political agenda, one wrote, and it’s not even about the technology. “It’s about wheth- er any of the systems that govern our society can be made to work or deserve our trust.” That’s an important point to remember. Some key players will change, and the broader landscape of government is undoubtedly shift- ing, but the pillars of federal IT prom- ise to look remarkably familiar in the Trump administration. FCW intends to cover it all. — Troy K. Schneider firstname.lastname@example.org @troyschneider EDITOR’S NOTE What comes next for federal IT 1216fcw_003-009.indd 7 11/9/16 3:16 PM
January and February 2017