Sens. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H. and John Cornyn, R-Texas, introduced a bill on March 23 that aims to reduce the Federal government’s reliance on outdated and obsolete information technologies (IT) by requiring agency officials to inventory their “legacy” IT systems and come up with plans to modernize systems.
The Legacy IT Reduction Act of 2022 also would require the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to assist Federal agencies in that effort.
Notably, the bill does not propose any dedicated funding for that IT replacement and modernization effort.
Federal agencies spend in the neighborhood of $100 billion per year on IT, and proponents of modernization have said that about 80 percent of that total is spent to maintain existing systems, with the remaining 20 percent going toward investments in more modern technologies. Off-budget funding sources for agencies include the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) and IT-focused working capital accounts, but those sources typically are dwarfed by the size of the much larger price tags that would come with large-scale IT modernization efforts.
The text of the bill relies on language from the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to define legacy IT as “an outdated or obsolete system of information technology.” A working definition of “legacy” IT has also been the subject of much discussion in recent years as part of the Federal IT modernization debate. Part of that debate has included a rough definition that legacy IT equates with technology that cannot be properly secured against present-day cyber threats.
“Updating government technology will save taxpayer dollars, strengthen cybersecurity, and improve Americans’ interactions with Federal agencies,” said Sen. Hassan in a release. “This bipartisan bill will help ensure that the Federal government isn’t wasting taxpayer dollars or risking a cyber attack simply because it hasn’t updated the necessary technology systems.”
“All Americans know the frustration of trying to use an old computer that is too slow or isn’t compatible with the newest, securest software – now imagine the entire federal government trying to serve Americans using such technology,” Sen. Hassan said. “This bipartisan bill will help ensure that agencies act to update critical technology and better serve the American people.”
If the bill becomes law, Federal agencies would have two years to come up with IT modernization plans, and would have to update those plans after five years thereafter.
The legislation falls in line with Sen. Hassan’s continuing efforts to increase transparency and oversight of agency modernization plans.
In June 2020, the senator requested responses from 10 agencies detailing plans to address their critically aging and most outdated IT systems, and convened a series of hearings to address the issue and challenges around modernizing legacy IT systems.