Issa bill to extend, enhance federal IT acquisition reforms gains House approval

Legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) to build on his earlier efforts to improve the federal government’s processes for acquiring computers and information technology (IT) cleared the House on Wednesday.

Signed into law in 2014, Issa’s Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) is focused on modernizing the federal government’s technology, increasing transparency and eliminating excessive spending. His new bill, the FITARA Enhancement Act of 2017, H.R. 3243, would extend key provisions of the original measure that are slated to expire at the end of the year.

Issa introduced the bipartisan bill with U.S. Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-VA). A Senate version of the bill championed by U.S. Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) passed the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee earlier this month.

“This legislation is critical to ensuring FITARA’s benefits are seen through to their fullest potential,” Issa said. “FITARA has made incredible improvements to how the federal government manages its information technology by cutting waste, saving taxpayer dollars, improving security and bolstering accountability. Yet, as is often the case in government, it has become clear that our problem with wasteful, forgotten, or duplicative data centers is far bigger than was even imagined.”

The provisions of the law that would be extended include reporting requirements for data center consolidation, in-person reviews of agency IT portfolios, and the IT Dashboard – a tool that allows federal agencies and the public to track the performance of more than 7,000 federal IT investments online.

Up to 75 percent of the federal government’s $80 billion annual IT budget is dedicated to maintaining outdated systems, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports. The GAO also found that lack of oversight has often led to the government’s IT investments underperforming or failing.

“When we first started looking into this problem in 2009, it was estimated the government was running only roughly 1,000 data centers,” Issa added. “By 2015, it was uncovered it was running as many as 10 times the number initially estimated. As these modernization efforts continue being implemented, we can’t miss out on potential taxpayer savings by simply allowing agencies to run out the clock until the requirements expire at the end of next year.”

Following committee approval of the bill in the Senate, Daines said the federal government has not kept pace with the private sector in terms of IT.

“We need to be able to run as fast as technology advances and that includes updating our laws for a 21st century workforce,” Daines said.