A Next Path for Government IT Modernization
To start, IT modernization should include modernizing the mission delivery systems and not just the IT infrastructure where substantial progress has been made.
If there is one thing that is getting very strong bi-partisan support in Congress, it is IT modernization. This in part has been spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exposed the need to improve the delivery of government services to the public. While the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) scorecard has done perhaps the most to create a focus and measure progress toward modernization, it is critical that more focus be given to replacing legacy systems to deliver services and tightly link program performance with FITARA scoring. There may be no more favorable time than now to get the action needed from Congress to get the funding needed.
This is a multidimensional effort that includes overcoming actual and perceived obstacles involving technology, acquisition, security, personnel, legal, and financial support for these areas. Overcoming some aspects of these obstacles need Congressional involvement as well as OMB and OPM. For example, how can OPM move more quickly to determine what type of special hiring authority they will grant agencies to attract needed talent. On the financial side, what is the action plan to properly create working capital funds and properly steward those funds. On the acquisition side, what can be done to hasten the adoption of streamlined process that will allow the procurement of innovative capabilities. Concerning technology, IT executives need to determine what the role and interplay of artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, robotic processing automation (RPA) and analytics will have in moving to a truly modernized IT environment. IT modernization is not a one and done process but is a continuous process with no end.
While all of the above may seem daunting, agencies can move forward on IT modernization by taking the next step of accelerating the modernization of older system with high operations and maintenance costs in the spirit of the Modernizing Government Technology Act (MGT) through using taxpayer dollars to fund development of modernized solutions and not operations and maintenance.