While progress in modernizing government technology is one of the overarching themes of the bi-annual FITARA scorecard issued by the House Oversight and Reform Committee, an official from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) testified on July 28 that the Federal government still spends over 60 percent of IT spending on maintaining legacy systems.

That estimate came at the House Government Operations Subcommittee’s hearing on the 12th edition of the FITARA scorecard when GAO Director of IT and Cybersecurity Carol Harris said the legacy-spend percentage contrasts with just 13 percent of Federal IT spend being used for IT modernization.

Looking forward, Harris said Federal agencies may be able to boost the modernization spending ratio by establishing a working capital fund – as allowed by the Modernizing Government Technology Act – by 2022.

Also testifying at the July 28 hearing Federal CIO Clare Martorana pointed to the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) as another vehicle to aid IT modernization. The TMF got a $1 billion infusion through the American Rescue Plan, and the TMF board is currently sifting through around $2.1 billion worth of TMF proposals.  The board has yet to announce any awards that employ the new funding.

“These funding vehicles along with the Technology Modernization Fund are intended to help agencies tackle their legacy IT problem,” Harris told the subcommittee. “Establishing these funds are critical so that savings from data center optimization and portfolio stat efforts can be reinvested in agency IT modernization priorities.”

MeriTalk is putting the spotlight on all of the emerging developments with TMF in our first TMF Forward event scheduled for December 16. The event will showcase the tangible value of TMF in driving IT modernization forward, and will feature some of the leading technology voices in Congress including Reps. Gerry Conolly, D-Va., and Jim Langevin, D-R.I. Interested in joining us? Check out more information here.

When looking at the Small Business Administration (SBA) and Social Security Administration (SSA) – whose CIOs were also witnesses at the hearing – Harris said they will spend 80 percent and 60 percent of their IT budgets maintaining legacy IT systems this year, respectively. According to Harris, together, SBA and SSA will spend $2.1 billion on IT this fiscal year.

SSA is currently in the fourth year of a five-year modernization plan that CIO Sean Brune said has been focused on older legacy systems that are core to the agency’s mission. Brune said among those systems are the ones used to pay retirement insurance and disability insurance benefits and the system used to issue social security number cards.

“We are on track on schedule and on budget with our plan,” Brune told the subcommittee. “We appreciate that Congress has … dedicated appropriations to support our multi-year plan, which has allowed us to plan and execute development and procurement across fiscal years.”

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Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.