Reps. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., and Darrell Issa, R-Calif., have launched a new Congressional IT Modernization Caucus that they said will function as an “informal group” of lawmakers dedicated to addressing IT modernization challenges across government, and educating members of Congress on Federal IT issues.

Both lawmakers have deep experience on Federal IT modernization issues, having co-authored the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) that became law in 2014. FITARA places on larger Federal agencies a series of mandates to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their IT operations, and has been credited for generating more than $20 billion of cost savings since then.

Importantly, the FITARA statute has spawned the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s FITARA Scorecard, which grades agency progress on an evolving range of IT improvements.

Earlier this week, the committee released the 13th version of the semi-annual scorecard which reflected, among other highlights, Federal agencies’ strides on data center consolidation, along with lagging results on shifting communications contracts to the General Services Administration’s Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) contract.

At a hearing of the House Government Operations Subcommittee – which is chaired by Rep. Connolly – this week to consider the latest FITARA scorecard, members of both parties voiced agreement that the scorecard needs to continue evolving and rank Federal agencies more completely on cybersecurity, IT modernization progress, and their ability to provide high-quality citizen services.

Congressional interest in Federal IT issues has largely remained bipartisan, which should help the new Congressional IT Modernization Caucus with its mission. The caucus, at least initially, will provide a forum for House members, and its founders expect to recruit other members to the group soon.

“The recent COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the consequence of this inaction [on IT modernization] from the Small Business Administrations’ loan processing system crashing multiple times to the state of Connecticut website not handling more than 8,300 unemployment applications,” said Rep. Connolly.

“It has become abundantly clear that to generate the necessary resilience against future crises effectively, governments at all levels must fully embrace cutting-edge technology and data analytics,” he said.

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“Our nation should not be satisfied only with a leading position in global IT modernization,” said Rep. Issa. “America must instead commit to the pinnacle of invention, innovation, and discovery … This is the best way to meet and exceed competition from China and safeguard our technological independence. This bipartisan caucus has a key role to play.”

Similar caucus groups in Congress have focused on issues intersecting with Federal IT, most notably the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus co-chaired by Reps. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., and Mike McCaul, R-Texas.

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.