Cybersecurity

House panel approves backup plan to improve agencies' IT

The House Oversight Committee approved a bill that would extend efforts to help the federal government modernize its information technology.

The Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) originally passed in 2015, aiming to streamline some aspects of IT acquisitions and encourage better practices, including consolidating federal data centers. But many of the rules in that bill will sunset soon.

The FITARA Enhancement Act, approved by the panel Wednesday, would eliminate the end date for rules that require risk assessments for IT investments and reviews of IT investments for efficiency and waste. Those rules were originally set to expire in December 2019.

It would add two years to the rules concerning consolidating data centers, which were originally slated to expire in October.

The bill advanced via voice vote Wednesday afternoon in the committee.

"The sunset provisions that were contained were predicated on the belief agencies could be whipped into shape and that the tasks were possible to complete in that time period," Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), author of both FITARA and the Enhancement Act, told The Hill.

Before FITARA passed, he noted, the Committee was told that agencies had 1,100 data centers, which the bill aimed to reduce to 275.

"What we discovered after the bill passed was there were actually 11,000 data centers. You can't do ten times as big a job in the same amount of time," he said.

Connolly also placed some blame on the Trump White House for stalling progress in the IT space.

"We don't have a federal chief information officer or a federal chief technology officer, and only half the agencies have CIOs [chief information officers]. It's been seven months, and that has to change," he said.

The FITARA Enhancement Act is co-sponsored by Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) and Mark Meadows (R-N.C.).

An amendment to a defense policy bill that passed the House last week also includes language extending some FITARA provisions.

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