March 28, 2017

WASHINGTON – Today, the IT Alliance for Public Sector, a division of ITI, released the following testimony delivered by Senior Vice President for Public Sector Trey Hodgkins before a joint hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's Subcommittees on Information Technology and Government Operations entitled: ‘Reviewing Challenges in Federal IT Acquisition.’

As prepared for delivery, click here for Hodgkins submitted testimony:

Chairmen Hurd and Meadows, and Ranking Members Kelly and Connolly, thank you for the opportunity to share our perspectives on challenges the federal government faces regarding information technology investment, acquisition, and management.

There are many stakeholders, including leadership in Congress, who should be applauded for their time and effort to reform acquisition over the last few years. The technology sector, however, has not found those efforts at reform to have had substantial effect, and in many cases, they have only resulted in incremental changes addressing symptoms, rather than the root problems, of the dysfunction in government acquisition.

The IT Alliance for Public Sector has proposed to President Trump that the time is ripe to change the way the federal government acquires IT, and we would make the same suggestion to the committee.

IT modernization is the key to increasing cybersecurity for government networks. Further, acquisition reform is essential to modernize IT in the government and attain greater cyber assurance.

In other words, we cannot have cybersecurity without IT modernization, and we cannot acquire the goods and services we need for either of these goals without changing the way we acquire IT. All three are inextricably linked.

As this committee has identified, we are using IT systems that are now decades old. Many of the challenges with IT acquisition lie in processes that anticipated lengthy development to deliver a platform or solution for use over a long period of time.

But, that dynamic no longer works for IT. IT capabilities and computing power are evolving and improving faster than the government can follow, underscoring the imperative for change. To deliver these new capabilities, modernize IT, and better secure the government’s networks, the time is right to re-imagine our acquisition process.

We recommend four areas of focus for this committee to begin the process of modernization and reform:

  • Number One: Assess and Inventory the Technologies We Have Today. We do not have a complete picture of the IT hardware and software the government owns or is using. Such an action serves several purposes: first, it uncovers exactly what the federal government owns or is using; second, it determines where vulnerabilities may exist and sets priorities for addressing them; and, third, it will reveal what needs modernization and help identify solutions. Congress should use oversight to enforce existing inventory requirements and establish new requirements where there may be gaps.
  • My Second Point: Identify Meaningful Funding for IT Modernization. Last Congress, ITAPS strongly supported the efforts by Chairman Hurd, Ranking Member Connolly, and others to fashion a bipartisan means of funding IT investment, and we encourage their continued focus on this problem. The funding challenge Congress must resolve is that agencies either have the appropriations to continue operating the IT investments they have already made or fund investment in modernization, but they do not have enough funds for both. Without such a change, the federal government will be unable to modernize IT or effectively protect networks and systems from cyber threats.
  • Third: Invest in a Tech-Savvy Workforce. While there are many smart and tech-savvy IT personnel within the federal government, there are simply not enough of them. Congress should focus on establishing better IT training and digital capabilities for existing personnel to make them more tech-savvy, regardless of their role. Congress should also work to un-encumber the federal hiring process to attract new talent that can bring new ideas into the federal workforce.
  • My Final Point: Unleash the Innovative Power of the Existing Industrial Base and the Commercial Sector. We already have innovation in the companies selling goods and services to support the government mission, but the government’s unique compliance requirements on vendors distorts what they can sell and how they can deliver it. For commercial companies, such compliance requirements are often prohibitive. Congress should address these burdens and remove those that do not improve the acquisition outcome or drive better value for the taxpayer.

In other words, Congress should help make the government a better customer.

Not all of these challenges can be addressed through legislative actions, but many solutions and outcomes can be driven through the oversight role this committee and Congress can exercise.

Additionally, much of what I have identified requires cultural changes, some of which will not be simple, and Congressional oversight of agency management can help to drive those changes.

We did not get where we are overnight, and solutions and modernization will not happen overnight either. However, we can no longer accept that these challenges are “too hard” to address. I encourage the committee and Congress to embrace and enable IT modernization—and all that it can deliver—and reimagine IT acquisition with us. We are ready to help with such an undertaking.

Thank you again to the chairmen, ranking members, and members of the committee, for the opportunity to present these thoughts to you today. My submitted testimony addresses these and other related topics and I would be happy to address your questions at the appropriate time.

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Public Policy Tags: ITAPS, Cybersecurity