- The U.S. federal government is highlighting the need for IT modernization, calling for a more "modern" technology implementation that taps into "American innovation," according to a federal IT modernization report to the president, released Wednesday. The goal is to maximize use of cloud computing while modernizing government-hosted applications and establishing a secure way to maintain and operate legacy systems.
- Part of the modernization push is to move away from prioritizing network perimeters, according to the report. By shifting priorities, agencies could eventually move toward an environment that protects federal data and optimizes cloud deployments.
- Agencies have struggled to modernize because of challenges in prioritizing resources, a slow procurement process and technical issues, according to the report. Because there have been hangups in adopting cloud technologies, the report recommends piloting new implementations to create test cases for rapid deployment.
As part of an overarching network modernization and consolidation plan, the report recommends prioritizing the upgrade and migration of high-value assets, fostering cloud migration to make it easier to consolidate network acquisitions and management.
Agency leaders and public officials have long called for upgrading the federal IT portfolio. Glaring numbers highlighting how much it costs to maintain out-of-date systems cast agencies in a bad light. The federal government has an $80 billion federal IT budget, yet 75% goes toward the operation and maintenance of legacy systems, the Government Accountability Office found in 2016.
Some systems even rely on floppy disks or programming languages that were young in the 1950s.
Recent administrations have made efforts to improve how technology operate. The Obama administration, for example, launched the U.S. Digital Service to help modernize how the government connects with its citizenry. In May, the Trump administration launched the American Technology Council to help coordinate federal IT delivery.
Federal IT modernization reports aside, efforts to revamp government IT have passed through Congress. The Modernizing Government Technology Act of 2017 recently passed into law Tuesday, a subset of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY18. Spearheaded by Rep. Will Hurd, R-TX, the act creates an IT modernization fund that will help agencies modernize systems, allowing agencies use the money saved by upgrades to fund other systems.
A more agile approach to modernization, and the elimination of red tape, should make it easier for agencies to upgrade lagging systems. Key to successful modernization is to make sure IT budgets aren't cut just because upgrades have saved it money. Rather, continuing to prioritize IT funding best ensures agencies don't fall further behind.