Statements and Speeches

Opening Statement: Government 2.0 - Transitioning America into the 21st Century and a Digital Future

Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security

Apr 28 2009

My thanks to our guests and witnesses for being here today. Today’s hearing is the latest in a series of hearings this subcommittee has held to examine the effectiveness of agency information technology investments.

It is widely recognized that technology has transformed the way Americans interact, socialize, and conduct business. For example, it is becoming more and more common for the average American to start the day by firing up the computer rather than opening up a newspaper. We have come to expect accurate and reliable information on demand. Businesses must have an effective presence online in order to remain relevant and competitive. If they want to stay in touch with their customers and gain efficiencies, they must constantly seek out and harness the latest technological innovations. Similar things could be said about the federal government.

The Obama administration appears to be filled with some of the most tech-savvy men and women to sign up for government service. I applaud the President’s early commitment – including during his time in this body - to use technology to make government more transparent and more effective. I look forward to hearing more details from Mr. Kundra today about the administration’s technology agenda and how we can make better, more cost-effective use the latest innovations.

I say this because this subcommittee has extensively examined two critical issues that call into question the federal government’s ability to use technological innovations to save money, improve customer service, and better achieve agency missions.

The first area involves failing IT investments. All too often, agency technology investments – from something as simple as a new accounting system to something as complicated as the so-called “virtual fence” on the Mexican border – are delivered millions of dollars over cost, years behind schedule, and not performing as planned. In fact, many times agencies pay twice the going rate for obsolete technology that does not serve the agencies’ needs. To make matters worse, Congress has often not learned about these failed projects until it is too late and million of dollars have already been wasted.

To address this problem, I’ve introduced legislation today along with Senator Collins that will give agency leadership and decision-makers in Congress the information they need to know whether our investment in new technology is getting us anything. Our bill, the Information Technology Investment Oversight Enhancement and Waste Prevention Act, would also give OMB new tools that it can use to help agencies fix troubled projects before they fail.

The second area that often prevents the effective use of technology within the federal government is the risk we face from cyber attacks.

Our nation comes under attack every day by hackers, cyber criminals, and even other countries. Our oversight has shown that, to date, agencies have not done what is necessary to ensure that sensitive information and critical infrastructure is secure.

There is no clear evidence today of a significant and disruptive cyber attack against the United States but countries such as Estonia, Georgia, Australia, and Brazil have been victims. The technical capability and expertise is available if a terrorist group or country that wanted to do us harm wanted to use it. In fact, it can be easily bought and sold on the Internet.

In addition, Americans’ sensitive personal information, as we all know, is constantly at risk. A number of agencies store a significant amount of the kind of information that identity thieves and other criminals might find valuable. Agencies also hold sensitive security information; just last week we learned that someone had gone online to steal the plans for our most technologically advanced fighter jet.

I have introduced another bill today to address this pressing problem. That bill, the U.S. Information and Communications Enhancement Act, would organize the federal government to deal with these 21st century challenges – such as cyber threats – by establishing an office within the White House to coordinate the work of the various agencies involved in cyber security. It would also strengthen the Department of Homeland Security’s role in cyber security and give agency security officers more authority to enforce and test security standards. 

I look forward to working with the Obama administration’s new team on these and other issues. 

 

SUMMARY OF BILLS INTRODUCED

The United States Information and Communications Enhancement Act of 2009 reorganizes the federal government to better protect our nation’s critical infrastructure and sensitive information. This bill allows the government to respond more effectively to the challenges posed by constant cyber attacks directed at federal agencies and other strategic targets. Specifically, the bill establishes a new office in the White House responsible for coordinating the nation’s cyber operation centers in the Department of Homeland Security, the National Security Agency and the Department of Defense; and to coordinate effectively with the private sector. The bill also strengthens the role of security officers within agencies to monitor, detect and respond to cyber threats on a real-time basis. Lastly, the bill capitalizes on the federal government’s significant buying power to purchase more secure software and hardware.
 
 
The Information Technology Investment Oversight and Waste Prevention Act of 2009reforms the way federal agencies procure information technology investments that are often underperforming and run millions of dollars over budget. The bill will require agencies to plan investments correctly upfront; to inform the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Congress if the project experiences significant roadblocks or cost overruns; and to pull the plug if project costs spiral out of control. The bill also gives the OMB the ability to assist agencies with expert project managers to prevent projects from falling off track. Finally, the bill establishes programs to incentivize and reward employees who perform well in their management of federal IT investments.