Cost of key cyber bill drops by billions after revisions

Cost of key cyber bill drops by billions after revisions
© Getty Images

Legislation moving swiftly through Congress that would incentivize federal agencies to modernize their IT infrastructure would cost $500 million over a five-year period, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). 

The score is likely welcome news for the bipartisan cosponsors of the new version of the Modernizing Government Technology Act, a legislative effort that hit a snag late last year when the CBO priced implementation of the bill at $9 billion. 

The bill, introduced by a group of lawmakers in the House and Senate, would set up two channels of funding for agencies to adopt modern, more secure IT equipment. It would create a general fund for agencies to borrow from for modernization efforts and would also allow agencies to keep money saved from replacing legacy systems and spend it on future modernization efforts within three years. 

The bill would appropriate $250 million in fiscal years 2018 and 2019 to cover the costs of implementation.

ADVERTISEMENT

Congress is moving quickly on the bill, which has received backing from the Trump administration. The bill was approved by a key House committee less than a week after being introduced and is scheduled to go to the House floor for a vote on Wednesday. In the Senate, Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranMcConnell, Grassley at odds over Trump-backed drug bill Senators inch forward on federal privacy bill Hillicon Valley: Dueling bills set stage for privacy debate | Google co-founders step down from parent company | Advocates rally for self-driving car bill | Elon Musk defamation trial begins | Lawsuit accuses TikTok of sharing data with China MORE (R-Kan.), Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallOvernight Defense: House passes compromise defense bill | Turkey sanctions advance in Senate over Trump objections | Top general says military won't be 'raping, burning and pillaging' after Trump pardons Senate panel advances Turkey sanctions bill despite Trump objections Overnight Defense: Bombshell report reveals officials misled public over progress in Afghanistan | Amazon accuses Trump of 'improper pressure' in Pentagon contract decision | House Judiciary holds final impeachment hearing MORE (D-N.M.), and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerTikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings, inflaming tensions Watchdog report finds FBI not motivated by political bias in Trump probe Ex-Rep. Scott Taylor to seek old Virginia seat MORE (D-Va.) have introduced companion legislation.

The bill passed the House late last year but stalled in the Senate after the CBO assessed that it would cost $9 billion to implement, including $3 billion alone for the modernization fund.

The bill is nearly identical to last year’s legislation, save for adjustments made to decrease the cost. 

According to the CBO estimate completed late last week, the total cost of implementing the new legislation would amount to $500 million over the five-year period from 2017 to 2022, and would not affect direct spending. It also would not increase net direct spending or deficits beyond 2028.

The use of legacy systems by the federal government has stoked fears about vulnerabilities to cyber intrusions and attacks, particularly after the Office of Personnel Management breach that compromised personal information of more than 20 million Americans.

“We’ve been fighting to get this bill signed into law because the American people deserve better from their government,” Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), one of the cosponsors, said of the bill’s reintroduction in late April.

“A move towards modern technologies can keep our information and digital infrastructure secure from cyberattacks, while saving billions of taxpayer dollars.”