IT Modernization a Big Focus with the New Budget Plan

May 4, 2017


Modernization of the IT system of the federal government has been a long time coming. A Government Accountability Office report shows just how obsolete the federal legacy IT investments have become. Many agencies use outdated software languages and hardware parts that are no longer supported. Some agencies even use systems that have components that are at least 50 years old! For example, the Department of Defense uses 8-inch floppy discs in a legacy system that coordinates the operational functions of the nation’s nuclear forces.

The Office of Management and Budget recently began a modernization initiative to replace the federal government’s legacy IT systems. OMB has drafted guidance that requires agencies to identify and plan to modernize legacy systems. However, until finalized and executed, the government runs the risk of maintaining systems that may have outlived their effectiveness.

Modernizing IT systems has become a major focus in the FY2019 budget development process. Capital planning and investment control (CPIC) and enterprise architecture (EA) may hold keys for agencies to move from legacy systems.

The federal chief architect at OMB, Scott Bernard, said, “We are very aware that agencies have to deal with their legacy burden. And it’s a shame when you are handcuffed to spend three-fourths or more of every dollar in your budget on legacy systems.” OMB estimates agencies have a bill of more than $7.5 billion in outdated or soon-to-be-expired technology coming in the next three years. OMB is currently asking agencies to reaffirm what their mission priorities are and where the opportunities are for transformation.

Bernard said agencies need to have an authoritative baseline architecture as a starting point to make good future decisions. “All agencies should have a baseline architecture, but over the past decade or so, many have not kept up with the changes. Other agencies have not aligned their architectures with their strategic priorities.”

OMB issued guidance last year detailing how agencies should begin planning for IT modernization. For many reasons, OMB is revamping the CPIC process and asking agencies to break down IT spending more specifically. Agencies will send separate business cases for 7 different commodity spending areas:

  • IT management
  • IT security and compliance
  • Data centers
  • Compute capabilities
  • Storage capabilities
  • Networks
  • User support

Bernard said, “We are breaking IT spending into those 7 areas and are giving guidance and training on how to pull these together.”

Dan Chenok, a former OMB official said, “Part of the CPIC reform is to have agencies report in what is meaningful, and have agencies link their spending plans to budget planning in a way that simplifies the reporting requirements…”

Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) introduced his revamped version of the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Bill on April 28th. He said the bill creates incentives for agencies to save money and reinvest it into modernization efforts.

Rep. Mike McCaul (R-TX), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee said, “With having legacy systems, which are very antiquated and make us more vulnerable to attacks like the OPM breach, it’s time for the federal government to come up to speed with the private sector.”

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