A late-session push for passage of a Federal government software bill kicked into higher gear today with the introduction in the House of the Strengthening Agency Management and Oversight of Software Assets Act.

The House bill introduced by a bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., is a companion measure to legislation approved on voice vote by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in late September. The Senate measure is sponsored by committee Chairman Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La.

A Senate source told MeriTalk today that the introduction of the House companion bill adds to strong impetus to secure passage of the legislation by the full House and Senate before the new Congress takes over in early January 2023.

The legislation would order Federal government agencies to undertake an inventory of all software used by the government – with a view toward eventually creating strategies to consolidate government software contracts, create governmentwide software licenses, and move toward adopting open-source software.

On its own, the bill would institute the proposed changes in Federal government software procurement and use, but it would order Federal agencies to undertake much of the groundwork necessary to prepare for those changes.

Rep. Cartwright’s office said the bill aims to address Federal agencies making “duplicative” purchases of software and “wasteful spending” that results from that. Part of that problem stems from “limited assessments of existing software assets,” the congressman’s office said.

“Without in-depth assessments of how agencies buy and use software, vendors often have the upper hand in transactions with Federal agencies,” Rep. Cartwright said today. “This bipartisan, bicameral legislation will streamline software procurement practices governmentwide to the benefit of American taxpayers,” he said.

Rep. Cartwright said the latest bill would build on the success of the 2016 MEGABYTE Act which he said has saved taxpayers more than $450 million since then by reducing duplicative software purchases. Agency progress on complying with the MEGABYTE Act became a long-lasting measuring stick used on the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s FITARA Scorecard.

The Strengthening Agency Management and Oversight of Software Asset Act would, among other provisions:

  • Give Federal agency CIOs one year to complete “comprehensive” assessments of their software contracts and inventories, including lists of their largest software suppliers, costs and volumes of software purchased, and software that is being paid for but not deployed;
  • Require agency CIOs and agency officials to present the assessments to agency heads, the Comptroller General, and the Senate Homeland Security and House Oversight and Reform committees;
  • Require agency CIOs to develop plans to consolidate software licenses at their agencies and adopt agency-wide enterprise license agreements. Those plans would include strategies for measuring actual software usage, priorities for converting to enterprise licenses, and cost estimates to moving toward enterprise, open-source, or other licenses that “do not restrict the use of software by the agency, and any projected cost savings or efficiency measures”;
  • Give the Office of Management and Budget two years to submit a strategy to the Senate Homeland Security and House Oversight and Reform committees that includes proposals to “support the adoption of governmentwide enterprise licenses on the most widely used and most costly software entitlements identified through the comprehensive assessment and plans,” show opportunities to leverage government procurement policies and practices to increase interoperability of software contracts to reduce cost and improve performance, entitlements acquired and deployed to reduce costs and improve performance; and provide “directions to agencies to transition to open-source software to obtain cost savings and performance improvement.”

The House bill has notable bipartisan backing, including as cosponsors: Reps. Dan Meuser, R-Pa.,  Ed Case, D-Hawaii; Gerry Connolly, D-Va., Danny Davis, D-Ill., Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., Glenn Grothman, R-Wisc., Michael Guest, R-Miss., Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, Brenda Lawrence, D-Mich., Mike Levin, D-Calif., Ted Lieu, D-Calif., Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., Katie Porter, D-Calif., and Jamie Raskin, D-Md.

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