The House Government Operations Subcommittee has scheduled a hearing for July 20 at 1:30 p.m. to examine the pressing need for further Federal IT modernization in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

The hearing – entitled “Federal IT Modernization: How the Coronavirus Exposed Outdated Systems” – will mark the panel’s first formal look at IT modernization issues since the coronavirus pandemic emerged in March, and cast into sharper focus the vital role that Federal technology has played in delivering essential services to citizens in times of crisis.

The subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., said today that the hearing will examine “the longstanding issue of legacy information technology (IT) systems, the challenges they present to federal agencies, and the urgent need to modernize federal IT systems, especially in light of the coronavirus pandemic.”

“The federal government can no longer afford to maintain legacy or ineffective IT systems that prevent agencies from meeting their missions and serving the public,” the subcommittee said.

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The hearing will cover not only traditional modernization themes – the government still runs on technology that is up to 50 years old in some cases – but also on the pandemic’s effects, and the need for government to invest in cloud computing and other technologies to make citizen service more efficient. Other topics are expected to include Federal agency performance as measured by the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA), and funding mechanisms for IT modernization including the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) and the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act.

Witnesses at the July 20 hearing will include: MeriTalk Founder Steve O’Keeffe; Alliance for Digital Innovation Executive Director Matthew Cornelius; Information Technology industry Council Senior Vice President Gordon Bitko; and Hana Schank, Director of Strategy, Public Interest Technology, at New America.

In announcing the hearing, the Government Operations Subcommittee noted that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 2019 identified the ten most critical Federal IT legacy systems in need of modernization, and said those are used by agencies “whose missions are essential to government operations management, healthcare, and wartime readiness.” Some of the systems identified by GAO are owned by the Social Security Administration, and the Treasury Department.

Of those ten agencies, the subcommittee said that only seven had documented modernization plans for the critical legacy systems, and that only two of the seven had plans that addressed three key practices including milestones to completion, descriptions of the work necessary to modernize systems, and details for disposition of legacy systems.

“According to GAO, until agencies establish complete legacy system modernization plans that include these three elements, the agencies’ modernization initiatives will have an increased likelihood of cost overruns, schedule delays, and overall project failures,” the subcommittee said.

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