Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act: Will it Provide Needed Momentum?

Published: October 27, 2016

Acquisition ReformPolicy and Legislation

The current administration and federal agencies are hopeful that the December lame-duck session will result in passage of the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act, providing momentum for agencies to upgrade or replace aging legacy systems.

Today agencies are spending upwards of 75% of their IT budgets on operations and maintenance, in some cases over 90%, leaving little to no money for IT modernization efforts. Congress has attempted to legislate a solution to modernize legacy IT systems several times this calendar year.  We’re currently on the third bill introduced to tackle the problem.

In September, Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) introduced the MGT Act, which is bipartisan legislation that combines major elements of the previous IT Modernization Act and the Modernizing Outdated and Vulnerable Equipment and Information Technology (MOVE IT) bills. The MGT Act passed the House but is still awaiting a Senate vote.

If passed, the MGT Act would:

  • Establish an information technology system modernization and working capital fund in each covered agency which may be used to:
    • Improve, retire, or replace existing information technology systems
    • Transition to cloud computing and innovative platforms and technologies
    • Improve IT to address evolving threats to information security
  • Require agencies to submit to OMB a list of each information technology investment funded by the agency's IT working capital fund.
  • Establish the Information Technology Modernization Fund (ITMF) to improve IT and to enhance cybersecurity across the federal government. GSA would administer the ITMF in accordance with OMB guidance.
  • Require OMB to publish a list of ITMF projects on a public website quarterly.
  • Establish an Information Technology Modernization Board, which shall:
    • Evaluate proposals submitted by agencies for funding authorized under the ITMF
    • Work with OMB to develop processes proposal submission and evaluation
    • Review and prioritize such modernization proposals
    • Identify opportunities to improve or replace multiple IT systems with a smaller number of IT systems common to multiple agencies
    • Recommend the funding of modernization projects
    • Monitor progress and performance in executing approved projects

In a recent interview with FedScoop, Hurd appeared to be optimistic about the legislation’s passage.  He’s aware of rumors that there may opposition by a few in the Senate, but stated that his team engaged with the Senate leads and appropriate committee staff early on in the process.

Unlike the previously proposed IT Modernization Act which would have provided $3.1B for the ITMF, the new MGT legislation does not specify upfront funding. Some believe the legislation may do little good without starting capital.

Hurd told FedScoop last month there are “a number of ways that money could potentially be reprogrammed, but that is something down the road that will be handled on the appropriations side.”

Federal CIO Tony Scott told a recent ACT-IAC IT Modernization forum, “In the absence of another approach, this seems like the best thing we can do at this particular point.  But at the same time, everybody realizes it’s a journey that will take place over multiple years.”