Leading Ambitious Technology Reforms in Government
Government leaders now have an opportunity to drive bold IT reforms in their agencies to keep pace with the evolution of technology. “Government is on the verge of a paradigm shift in terms of how technology is being absorbed by organizations. It is becoming completely different than operating technology in past decades,” said Dave McClure, former associate administrator at the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies at the General Services Administration.
Federal agencies are beginning to take advantage of technologies like cloud computing that provide a low-cost way to store and use massive amounts of data. They are shifting to more flexible approaches to build IT systems in months, instead of years, and are sharing, adapting and reusing technologies rather than building from scratch.
Both the Trump administration and Congress have made IT modernization a priority. This consensus reflects widespread concern that legacy systems and practices constrain mission performance, pose significant security risks and simply cost too much to maintain.
The White House has launched the American Technology Council, which in June held its first meeting with tech industry leaders to discuss IT modernization and identify cross-sector solutions to government technology challenges. In cybersecurity, implementation of the May 2017 executive order called, “Strengthening the Cybersecurity of Federal Networks and Critical Infrastructure” is underway. With guidance from the Office of Management and Budget, agencies have conducted and reported cybersecurity risk assessments and developed plans to implement the National Institute of Standards and Technology cybersecurity framework.
At the same time, the Modernizing Government Technology Act passed the House of Representatives in April 2017 with bipartisan support. It would establish a central fund for modernizing IT government-wide, and would authorize working capital funds at 24 large agencies, allowing them to bank savings generated by IT improvements for future projects. The White House supported this legislation, and has included a request for a centralized IT modernization fund in the president’s fiscal 2018 budget.
These moves build on the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act, known as FITARA, designed to improve how the federal government purchases and manages technology. It elevated the role of chief information officers in acquisitions, helping to better connect purchasing with the agencies’ technology needs. Government-wide implementation is in progress, with guidance from OMB.
With these activities underway, leaders will be called on to take concrete steps to improve IT operations in their agencies. This issue brief offers advice, tips and strategies from current and former government leaders who have led successful technology reforms in government.