Legislation Review: Select Information Technology Requirements in the Inflation Reduction Act
Published: August 09, 2022
H.R. 5376 contains millions in funding for IT investments.
Media coverage of the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (H. R. 5376) has focused almost entirely on whether or not the bill will reduce inflation and/or raise taxes. Also buried in the bill’s 755 pages of text, however, are a few items of interest to the contracting community, particularly those companies that provide information technology (IT) goods and services. Today’s post provides insight into a few of these proposed investments.
Section 40002 provides the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) with $190M to procure additional high-performance computing, data processing capacity, data management, and storage assets. These funds will remain available until September 30, 2026.
Comment: NOAA already possesses extensive high-performance computing capabilities so it is unclear if the agency will use this supplemental funding to expand their interaction with existing HPC providers or if it will initiate a new contract for it.
Section 50172 provides the Department of Energy’s Office of Science with $163.8M to “carry out activities for advanced scientific computing research facilities.” This funding will remain available through September 30, 2027.
Comment: The activities related to advanced scientific computing mentioned in the bill are not defined, so how this funding is supposed to be spent is anyone’s guess. Section 50172 is titled “National Laboratory Infrastructure” so it is possible that the funding could be split among DOE labs for various research projects that are underway, or it could be used to procure new computing infrastructure.
Software and Data Analysis
As part of the bill’s environmental concerns, Section 21002 provides $300M in funding for the Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to fund a program that quantifies carbon sequestration, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide emissions. The NRCS is directed to collect field-based data assessing these things and to use the data to monitor and track carbon sequestration and emissions trends through the Greenhouse Gas Inventory and Assessment Program.
Comment: This funding boosts the NRCS’ Climate Smart Agriculture Implementation plan, which requested $21M in funding for FY 2023. Collecting field data will require investment in sensing and measurement devices. The collected data will then be stored and processed in either the USDA’s cloud infrastructure or by a commercial cloud provider.
Section 60110 Funding for Enforcement Technology and Public Information includes $18M for the Environmental Protection Agency to upgrade its Integrated Compliance Information System (ICS). The funding will remain available until September 30, 2031. ICS funding is also intended to permit the updating of any associated systems, necessary information technology infrastructure, or public access software tools to ensure access to compliance data and related information. In addition, Section 60110 provides another $4.0M to the EPA for the purchase of new ICS Inspection Software and whatever devices are required to run the capability.
Comment: The EPA already slated the ICS to receive $135.5M in FY 2023 for modernization. According to the FY 2023 budget request, the EPA intends to enhance the integration of the ICS with Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) web-based services, which may provide a business opportunity for cloud services providers.
Business Systems Modernization
As part of the effort to increase the efficiency of the Internal Revenue Service, Section 10301 provides $4.75B for the IRS’ business systems modernization program, including the development of call-back technology and other solutions intended to provide more personalized customer service. This funding is available for use until September 30, 2031, but it does not include maintaining IRS legacy systems. An additional $15M is being made available through September 30, 2023, to develop a free direct efile tax return system. The funding provided will cover the cost of building and administering the system.
Comment: The creation of an efiling system for taxpayers will finally provide the ability to file tax returns directly with the IRS instead of using third parties, which is welcome. Meanwhile, business system modernization will help curtail the millions in wasteful spending that the IRS is required to make maintaining legacy systems. New IRS systems are likely to be cloud-based. The question is will these systems be built and provided by the winner of the new Treasury Cloud (TCloud) contract or will separate vendors be hired to perform the work.