The top members of the House Government Operations Subcommittee indicated today that Federal IT modernization – and the role that the newly expanded Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) can play in furthering that goal – loom large in their thinking as they consider the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s ongoing tracking of Federal agency IT improvements via the FITARA Scorecard.

Speaking at today’s subcommittee hearing on version 11.0 of the FITARA Scorecard issued last December, Chairman Gerry Connolly, D-Va., said the recent approval of $1 billion of new TMF funding under the American Rescue Plan Act may come into play in the next FITARA Scorecard hearing a few months from now.

“We look forward to engaging with the Office of Management Budget about the importance of IT modernization and this funding opportunity at the next FITARA hearing in July,” he said.

Noting that the TMF funding bump was approved as part of COVID-19 relief legislation, Rep. Connolly said “the coronavirus pandemic has proven that IT is integral, not incidental, to the mission, as we have seen both at the Federal, state, and local levels of government.” He added, “If the IT does not work then mission does not work.”

Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., ranking member of the subcommittee, talked about the urgency of dealing with pandemic-related IT issues, and in particular, IT security issues that have come to light since the last panel’s previous FITARA Scorecard hearing last year.

The ranking member said that high-profile cyberattacks in recent months on government and private sector networks “certainly reinforces the urgency to do everything we can as policymakers to keep Federal networks secure. That obviously is a major concern to all of us on both sides of the aisle.”

And he said the government’s ability to provide improved citizen service while also operating more remotely during the coronavirus pandemic “should be a top priority as well” for lawmakers to consider.

“This goes hand in hand with the need to modernize aging legacy systems [which is] also a very deep concern for many of us,” Rep. Hice said. “These old systems simply are not able to manage the demands and expectations of Americans here in the 21st century, we’ve got to replace these legacy systems.”

Praise for Agency Grades

Rep. Connolly offered some general praise for the 24 Federal agencies evaluated by the FITARA scorecard, noting that the 11th version of the grading was the first in which each agency earned at least one “A” grade – in the grading for software licensing.  Agency improvements in that area, he said, have saved the government $1.4 billion in software licensing costs since Fiscal Year 2015.

Other cost savings leaders generated by agencies in categories tracked by the FITARA scorecard include $22 billion saved through the IT portfolio review process known as Portfolio Stat and more than $5 billion saved through Federal data center closures.

That “A” grade in the software licensing category means it will disappear as a grading category in the next scorecard, with its place taken by a metric measuring agency progressing in transitioning to the General Services Administration’s Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contract for communications services.

More Improvement Needed

Along with those words of praise, Rep. Connolly said agencies have more work to do on fully empowering their CIOs, and noted that he and Rep. Hice, R-Ga., introduced a new bill today that would wrap CIOs, along with agency chief data, finance, and human capital officers, into annual performance planning at their agencies.

The FITARA Scorecard, Rep. Hice said, “has been a bright spot of bipartisan work for this committee and I look forward to continuing those efforts in regard specifically to the scorecard and its usefulness as it relates to IT reform in the future.”

“While agencies have certainly progressed over the past five years, the task, as always, is to ensure that we are keeping the scorecard current. We want to make sure that it’s measuring the most relevant facets as it relates to IT.”

Looking Forward to Fed CIO

Rep. Hice also said he was sorry that new Federal CIO Clare Martorana had been unable to testify at today’s hearing due to a family emergency and said he “looked forward to working with her in the future.”

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.