After the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2019 cleared a major hurdle late yesterday with the release of a conference report that reconciles differences between House and Senate versions of the bills, techies across the Federal government are finding that IT modernization and innovation amendments for the Pentagon fared well in the legislation.

IT Modernization

With the passage of the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act in 2017 and the resulting continued focus on the FITARA scorecard, it’s no shocker that significant ink is given in the NDAA legislation to encouraging and mandating IT modernization initiatives at the Pentagon. Based on the conference report, Congress is focused on both improving outcomes and oversight on existing initiatives.

With outdated technology systems and other modernization challenges, the IT evolution may seem daunting. However, the path forward has never been so clear. Learn more and register
Under the new legislation, Congress seeks improves oversight of more than 500 different DoD initiatives to migrate the Pentagon to cloud-hosted data and cloud-native programs and applications. The legislation mentions focusing specifically on securing networks and conducting workload analyses.

The NDAA seeks to strengthen DoD management by supporting efforts to use big data analytics for business operations, workforce growth and retention, and supporting the DoD’s ability to pass a financial audit. The latter issue–undergoing a financial audit–is always a concern during FITARA scorecard hearings in the House.

Along with other modernization initiatives, the NDAA suggests DoD move towards agile development. Specifically, it directs the DoD to fully implement a provision in last year’s NDAA to realign software-intensive systems to use agile methods that “deliver capability to users more frequently, keep pace with innovation, and avoid wasting taxpayer dollars to field capability that is already obsolete.”

Innovation and Research

To maximize innovation, the NDAA directs development of a National Defense Science and Technology Strategy, including a review of defense research and engineering enterprise by Michael D. Griffin, DoD’s under secretary of defense for research and engineering. The bill also gives Griffin’s office $75 million to develop interactions between the DoD and the commercial technology industry and academia to encourage private sector investment in hardware technologies of interest to the DoD, and proposes establishing a non-profit entity to achieve that goal.

Congress also zeroes in on emerging technologies by establishing coordinated defense research efforts in the areas of artificial intelligence and quantum information science.

To support the innovation priorities, the legislation is chockablock with provisions for increased research and development (R&D) funding. The new NDAA authorizes more than $300 million above the Trump administration’s request for science, technology, and testing programs. Included in the funding authorization is more than $100 million for test infrastructure and workforce, including for cybersecurity, directed energy, and hypersonics; $10 million for quantum information sciences; and $15 million for microelectronics research and the DARPA Electronics Resurgence Initiative.

For more on the final NDAA, click here to learn more about cybersecurity and electronic warfare provisions.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.