Bipartisan bill would increase accountability, ensure clear chain of command in federal IT process
Yesterday, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Jerry Moran (R-KS), both members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, introduced a bipartisan bill that would require the first major overhaul of the government information technology (IT) procurement process in over a decade. The senators urged quick action on IT reform, announcing their bill as President Obama met with executives from tech firms to discuss ways to improve the functioning of the health care website, HealthCare.gov.
The legislation would help modernize the government’s computer and technology systems, which in some cases lag far behind the private sector. In the process, the bill would also cut waste to save billions in taxpayer funds and prevent management and accountability problems that have plagued various federal IT initiatives, most recently HealthCare.gov.
“The federal government needs to be able to build cutting-edge, 21st century computer systems, but right now we are hobbled by laws written in the days of floppy disks and telephone modems,” Udall said. “We have an urgent need to modernize the law and especially to incorporate flexibility and accountability. I want to make sure that in the 21st century, citizens can depend on the web to interact with their government – especially when it comes to something as serious as health care insurance or taxes. As chairman of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, I look forward to continuing to work for reforms with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle.”
“Americans want an efficient and effective government. As I’m sure President Obama and White House officials heard this morning from technology executives, reforms to and increased oversight of our federal IT procurement process is critical to achieving this goal,” Moran said. “The systemically-flawed rollout of HealthCare.gov is one high-profile example of IT procurement failures, but numerous more projects incur cost overruns, project delays and are abandoned altogether. These examples of waste come at a cost of billions of dollars to American taxpayers. Our bill will help the federal government transition into the 21st Century in a fiscally responsible fashion by optimizing its use of IT.”
Each year, the federal government spends about $80 billion on information technology. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), at least 154 major federal IT investments totaling $10.4 billion are at risk and in need of management attention. GAO has also found that federal IT reforms such as empowering Chief Information Officers (CIOs), consolidating federal data centers, and transitioning to cloud computing services could save billions of dollars.
In July, the GAO detailed a number of problems with IT initiatives and recommended the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) work with federal agencies to better and more effectively implement the programs to save taxpayers billions of dollars. The report is available here.
Udall and Moran’s bill seeks to implement many of the GAO’s recommendations and eliminate duplication and waste in federal information technology acquisition and management, in part by:
- Ensuring accountability by empowering federal CIOs, elevating their role in civilian agency budget planning processes, and increasing their ability to optimize how agencies use IT.
- Improving the transparency and expanding the scope of the OMB public website, the IT Dashboard, for federal IT spending.
The bill is cosponsored by Senator Mike Johanns (R-NE), who serves with Udall and Moran on the Senate Appropriations Committee. U.S. Reps. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA) have introduced similar legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.