Being an undercover CIA officer taught Republican Rep. Will Hurd the importance of technology and cybersecurity. But he never predicted he’d become a champion of information technology in Congress.
“When I was deciding to run for Congress, I never thought I would be the IT procurement guy,” Hurd told Bloomberg BNA in a recent video interview.
The Texas lawmaker also spoke about his efforts to improve government efficiency and national security through better use of technology.
Hurd co-sponsored the Modernizing Government Travel Act, which codifies the ability of government workers to be reimbursed when using ridesharing services, like Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc., for work-related travel. The bill was signed into law in May.
In another bill, agencies would be able to update legacy IT systems using working funds created by Hurd’s Modernizing Government Technology Act (H.R. 2227), which passed the House last month. The government contracted with companies like International Business Machines Corp. and Lockheed Martin Corp. to spend $56.3 billion on total prime, unclassified IT hardware and services in fiscal year 2016, according to Bloomberg Government data.
Outdated IT systems put the government at greater risk of cyberattacks and waste taxpayer dollars, Hurd said. The federal government spends more than 75 percent of its IT budget on maintaining legacy systems, according to a 2016 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
The cost to implement the bill may prove an obstacle, however. A previous version of the legislation stalled in the Senate last fall after the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated it would cost $9 billion over a four year period. This session’s version received a five-year cost estimate of $500 million, but the cut has drawn criticism that agencies will not have the funding needed to make the initial investments required to update systems.
Another issue Hurd hopes to tackle in the 115th session is government’s ability to attract tech talent.
"The federal government is
never going to be able to compete with the private sector or Silicon Valley for
tech talent, so we have to accept that,"
Hurd told Bloomberg BNA.
The subcommittee chairman said the issue could be remedied by developing a U.S. Cyber National Guard. High school seniors would receive college scholarships in return for committing to working full time for the federal government in cybersecurity positions for several years after school, then maintaining a certain work commitment after moving to the private sector, Hurd said.
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