Imagine running your business on computer systems from the 1980s or 90s. You would fail. Yet, that’s precisely where government is today — trying to tackle 21st-century problems with 20th-century technology. As US CIO Tony Scott pointed out recently, the U.S. government spends nearly 80 percent of its IT budget on maintaining legacy systems and more than $3 billion worth of IT will reach its end-of-life during the next three years.
Simply put, the current way the federal government funds IT is broken.
Too much is spent on legacy maintenance, and not enough is spent on newer, more efficient, and more secure IT. Corporate boards across the country are demanding investments and improvements in business IT systems, and Congress should do the same with the Executive Branch as well.
That’s why we welcome the Obama Administration’s recently proposed forward-looking solution to upgrade the government’s legacy systems: the Information Technology Modernization Fund (ITMF). If approved by Congress, the ITMF would establish a much-needed $3.1 billion investment for federal government agencies to modernize their IT systems. With so many legacy systems reaching their end of life, we should take advantage of this moment and make funding available to rapidly replace these outdated systems. That’s why the ITMF is badly needed.
As any company will tell you, it is a constant challenge to balance budget needs and technology needs. The ITMF creatively addresses this issue. It is a self-sustaining fund that requires federal agencies to repay what it takes out. Oftentimes, the federal agencies will reap savings by upgrading their technology. They just need the seed money. According to the White House, “$3.1 billion in seed funding for fiscal year 2017 will address at least $12 billion in modernization projects over the first 10 years.” The ITMF is a smart investment for the taxpayer.
As the recent hack of federal employee records at OPM demonstrated, security is another imperative to replace outdated legacy systems as soon as possible. Legacy systems are more expensive and nearly impossible to secure. Just one vulnerability or one outdated computer on a network exposes the entire network to a potentially devastating breach. In a day and age when hackers attack government websites with sensitive data on a daily basis, we can’t afford not to have the most secure networks.
In the end, the ITMF is not just a fund. It’s a modern solution for a modern problem. It’s about using cutting-edge IT to greatly improve government performance, reduce government costs, and make the computers we rely on to help solve society’s most challenging problems more secure. It’s about making the country safer, now and in the future. We hope that policymakers on both sides of the aisle and both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue can work together to put into law this necessary upgrade to federal IT.
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About the author: Scott Rubin is Chief Marketing Officer at Tanium, where he is responsible for marketing, communications, public affairs, and public policy. Prior to Tanium, Scott was a partner at the venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz, where he advised portfolio companies on their communications and brand strategies. Before joining Andreessen Horowitz, Scott was a director at Google, where he served on both the public policy and communications teams, most recently managing global corporate communications.