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Federal IT Systems Unable to Keep Up With Rapidly Changing Circumstances, Say House Oversight Committee Witnesses

Elijah Labby



Screenshot of Matthew Cornelius, executive director of the Alliance for Digital Innovation, from the webcast

July 20, 2020 — Federal information technology systems are outdated and unable to keep up with their exponentially growing responsibilities, said witnesses in a House Oversight Committee hearing Monday.

The systems’ “incremental change is insufficient in the face of exponential growth,” said Gordon Bitko, senior vice president of policy at the Information Technology Industry Council.

Current attempts to upgrade the systems are moving too slowly, and by the time they roll out, “will already be out of date,” Bitko added.

Matthew Cornelius, executive director of the Alliance for Digital Innovation, said that these IT deficiencies are holding the government back.

“We at ADI are keenly aware that the government’s continued reliance on outdated, insecure legacy technology fundamentally obstructs the creation of a modern, secure, digital government,” he said.

Cornelius claimed that the government’s immunity to capitalistic pressures toward innovation make developments difficult.

“The government is averse to market pressures and often relies on a woefully outdated business model,” he said.

He suggested major changes to current legislation to fix the problem.

“Congress should overhaul decades-old laws such as Clinger-Cohen and the E-Government Act to provide a current, sustainable foundation for IT modernization more aligned to today’s technology environment,” he said.

Hana Schank, director of strategy and public interest technology at New America said that several more steps are needed to respond to the problem.

“There needs to be a modern technology workforce inside the government, and this starts from the top,” she said. “There must be a very senior person at each federal agency who has a background in technology, who can bring that experience to bear on policy decisions.”

She also suggested that a rollout plan was necessary and should be put together by Congress.

Such innovations and the continued advancement of governmental information technologies are vital, Cornelius said.

“Modernization is vital not only because it saves money and enhances cybersecurity, [but because] it is the primary means for agencies to competently and capably deliver important citizen services to the American people,” he said.


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