Modernizing Government Technology Act to get second path to passage in Senate NDAA

Nearly every major technology reform bill has followed a similar path over the last 30 years. After being introduced as standalone legislation, lawmakers eventually attach it as an amendment to the defense authorization bill.

It seems the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act is heading down the same well-traveled trail.

Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) have filed an amendment to the NDAA bill that is the MGT Act.

“I am very hopeful that the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee will take up the MGT Act soon after the August recess,” Udall said in an email to Federal News Radio. “There have been constructive, bipartisan conversations between the bill sponsors, committee leaders and the administration, and I believe we can come together and move the bill through the Senate in the coming months. To that end, I joined Sen. Moran in filing the MGT Act as an amendment to the NDAA since that may again be a viable path towards enacting important federal IT reform legislation.”

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One industry source said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, still must approve or at least not object to any path MGT will take to becoming law.

The amendment seems to mirror the House’s version of MGT, which passed May 17 by voice vote.

A HSGAC spokeswoman told Federal News Radio that the committee staff continues to review the bill.

The news that Moran and Udall filed MGT Act as an amendment was seen as a positive development by industry observers.

“We welcome this addition to the National Defense Authorization Act, which traditionally has been a major vehicle for significant IT policy reforms,” said Rich Beutel, president of Cyrrus Analytics and a former House staff member. “This forward-looking provision will create a virtuous cycle of agency innovation driving home the promise of IT modernization across the federal government.”

Mike Hettinger, managing principal of Hettinger Strategy Group LLC and a former House staff member, said: “MGT has been a top industry priority since its introduction last year and we are encouraged to see it potentially move forward as part of the NDAA. Getting this bill enacted, whether as a standalone or as part of the NDAA is a critical step to kick-starting government’s IT modernization.”

Starting with the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996, to the Services Acquisition Reform Act, to the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act, using the NDAA is almost the only way to get governmentwide legislation passed. The E-Government Act of 2002 and the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 are two of the most recent examples of bills that got through Congress and to the president without the benefit of the NDAA.

The House passed its version of the NDAA on July 14, while the Senate has moved its version out of committee, but not to the floor for consideration.

Several other senators are planning to introduce acquisition or technology-related amendments on the floor when Congress comes back in session after Labor Day. Some of the most interesting ones include:

  • Raising the micro-purchase threshold to $10,000 from $3,000.
  • Improving data analytics to better address waste and fraud in the government purchase card program. The Office of Management and Budget and the General Services Administration would have to come up with a new strategy and issue guidance to improve information sharing across agencies. The implementation of the strategy and information sharing would be governed by a new interagency charge card data management group.
  • Requiring through the Open, Public, Electronic, and Necessary Government Data Act that agencies publish machine-readable data in open formats and under open licenses. Agencies also would have to create and maintain an enterprise data inventory of any data assets used in agency information systems (including program administration, statistics, and financial activity) generated by applications, devices, networks, facilities and equipment, categorized by source type.
  • The Government Accountability Office would have to submit a report to Congress 180 days after the enactment of the bill about any critical telecommunications equipment, technologies, or services obtained or used by the Department of Defense or its contractors or subcontractors that are closely linked to a leading cyber-threat actor; or from an entity that incorporates or utilizes information technology manufactured by a foreign supplier, or a contractor or subcontractor of such supplier, that is closely linked to a leading cyber-threat actor such as China or Iran.
  • The defense secretary must submit a report to Congress on contracting fraud that details any fraud-related criminal convictions and civil judgments over the last five fiscal years, a listing of contractors who were debarred or suspended because of fraud convictions, an assessment of the total value of contracts over the last five years to contractors indicted on fraud and any recommendations from the inspector general on how best to penalize contractors repeatedly involved in fraud in connection with contracts.
  • Each DoD contractor must provide information on an annual basis about the number of employees it employs inside and out of the U.S., a description of the wages and benefits the employees in both areas are receiving, and any layoffs of American workers the company has made over the last year.

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