MGT Act Survives Defense Authorization Bill Conference

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The Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act, spearheaded by Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, made it through conference proceedings as an amendment to the $700 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), according to reports from the Hill.

While details on the MGT Act were not included in the conference summary released by the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday, reports indicate that the bulk of the bill passed through the conference process, including the creation of a $500 million modernization fund that agencies could borrow against to modernize their aging systems. In addition to the modernization fund, MGT also allows agencies to allocate savings created by first round modernization projects for use in future projects with the creation of working capital funds. With both House and Senate Armed Services Committees in agreement on the bill, the NDAA must pass the floor votes and receive Pres. Trump’s signature.

“I’ve worked hard with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to reform federal IT and I am pleased to see that the text of MGT made it through the conference process,” Hurd told MeriTalk. “I hope to see a timely passage by both chambers and a Presidential signature soon.”

In the private sector, tech industry leaders were glad that the MGT Act made it through conference proceedings and are hopeful the funding will lead to improved government services.

“We are happy to hear that the MGT Act passed the conference proceedings as an amendment to the $700 billion National Defense Authorization Act,” Jeffrey Chabot, director of government segment strategy for Schneider Electric IT Federal, told MeriTalk. “This Act will give much needed capital to Federal CIO’s and partially fund the DCOI Executive order which focuses on optimization and consolidation of Federal data centers.”

In September, the MGT Act, which has the support of the White House Office of American Innovation, was included as an amendment to the NDAA by Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kans., and Tom Udall, D-N.M. Before being introduced in the Senate, the MGT Act passed through the House as a standalone bill in May of this year.

“The MGT Act is a perfect example of what we can accomplish when we seek common-sense solutions in a bipartisan way,” said Udall in September. “This major legislation to modernize the Federal government’s grossly outdated IT systems will strengthen our national security and save taxpayers millions.”

Also included in the conference summary is an amendment that will create a pilot program for a potential online marketplace where the DoD could procure commercial off-the-shelf products. The amendment created some controversy since it allows for no-bid contracts. A letter from several tech industry groups to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said the amendment undermines competition and creates “the risk of a monopoly acquisition platform.”

The bill also includes several provisions to clarify the role and expand the responsibilities of the DoD Chief Management Officer (CMO). The legislation established the CMO as the third most senior position in the Pentagon. The current CIO position is retained, differing from earlier versions of the bill which split the CIO responsibilities duties between a CMO and a to-be-created position called the chief information warfare officer. Also in the legislation, the CIO role would be presidentially appointed and Senate confirmed. If passed, the CMO position would begin Feb. 1, 2018.

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