Senate Pushes Government IT, Data Measures Toward Finish Line


data

Two pieces of legislation applauded by tech trade groups and advocates have come closer to becoming law as a public comment period on a White House report on modernizing government tech wraps up today.

That’s music to the tech industry’s ears. The IT Alliance for the Public Sector, a division of ITI, which represents companies like Apple Inc. and International Business Machines Corp., is hailing the congressional and administrative efforts. TechNet, the Data Coalition and the Consumer Technology Association, which represents companies such as Facebook Inc. and Amazon.com Inc., have voiced support for the legislation.

The Senate Sept. 18 passed two measures as part of a fiscal 2018 defense authorization bill that would fund updates to federal agency information technology (IT) systems and streamline government data accessibility.

One of the measures would authorize working capital funds at 24 federal agencies to update legacy IT systems and authorize a $500 million government-wide centralized fund. More than 75 percent of the federal government’s more than $80 billion IT budget is spent on maintaining legacy IT systems, the U.S. Government Accountability Office said in a 2016 report. The House passed the legislation as a stand-alone measure in May.

“Relying on outdated IT systems is unacceptable in an era of relentless cyberattacks, and because it often undermines the federal government’s ability to properly serve taxpayers, veterans, and other citizens seeking assistance,” Linda Moore, president and CEO of TechNet, said in a statement.

The second measure folded into the defense bill would require all public data to be easily searchable, machine-readable and maintained on the federal government’s Data.gov website. Tech trade groups say this would help industry better access information for services and research.

The language was drawn from a bill a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced in the House and Senate earlier this year.

Both measures in the defense bill are likely to survive the House and be enacted.

The congressional action came as the White House’s American Technology Council finishes a report that makes recommendations aimed at accelerating government IT system modernization. The council opened the report up for a public comment period to get industry feedback on how best to move forward on the initiative.