Hoyer pushing Obama's tech modernization drive
April 10, 2016
By MIKE LILLIS
The second-ranking House Democrat will soon introduce legislation launching President Obama's multibillion-dollar effort to strengthen cybersecurity by modernizing the government's technology infrastructure. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) says the creation of the Information Technology Modernization Fund (ITMF), which Obama included in his latest budget proposal, is vital both for protecting the country from cyberattacks and for streamlining antiquated information networks across the spectrum of federal agencies. The minority whip, who is poised to unveil the $3.1 billion proposal on Monday, is characterizing the fund as "a major step" toward overhauling the way Washington upgrades its information technology systems in the name of improving government efficiency, fighting hackers and securing the privacy of all Americans. "This bill will rapidly upgrade our federal IT systems that are most in need of upgrading, either from being cybersecurity risks, inefficient, or costly to maintain,"
Hoyer said Friday in a statement. "The new upgrades will enable agencies to create new user-friendly apps and services, and will allow agencies to share data to root out fraud and abuse." Hoyer's bill would provide a one-time "investment" of $3.1 billion to fill the technology fund. Federal agencies could then apply to tap into the pool for the purpose of updating their IT systems, with priority going to those projects deemed most outdated and susceptible to hackers. An independent board would oversee the fund and allocate the money, and the agencies would backfill the funds in an effort to make the pool self-sustaining. Obama, Hoyer and other backers argue that front-loading the funding to provide quick upgrades would be a vast improvement over the current system, in which agencies, pinched by budget restraints, often modernize over the course of years. That long-drawn process wastes money, say ITMF supporters, because the new technology is often obsolete by the time the upgrades are in place. Hoyer's bill comes amid a string of cyberattacks targeting the federal government over the last year, including successful efforts to tap into the personal information of federal workers. Hoyer has not identified an offset to cover the cost, but is looking for one, according to his office. Still, locating $3.1 billion that both parties can agree upon will be no easy task given the partisan polarization that practically defines Congress. It won't be the first time the tech-modernization idea has surfaced on Capitol Hill this year. Last month,
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) tried to attach the $3 billion proposal to the GOP's 2017 budget bill. It was shot down by Republicans, who rejected all 29 amendments offered by the Democrats. Hoyer is hoping the GOP opposition in the Budget Committee was a political calculation, not a signal that the Republicans oppose the underlying policy. He's hoping the goal of modernizing the government in the name of efficiency will attract broad bipartisan support, election year or none. "The ITMF model has a proven track record in the private sector of reducing long term costs," he said, "and I hope Democrats and Republicans can work together to advance this legislation in the weeks ahead.”