Federal Agencies’ Reliance on Outdated and Unsupported Information Technology: A Ticking Time Bomb

Hearing Date: May 25, 2016 9:00 am 2154 Rayburn HOB

IT

TAKEAWAYS:

  • The federal government spends the majority of its $80 billion technology budget on maintaining and operating legacy systems. Legacy information technology (IT) systems result in higher costs and security vulnerabilities.
    • Agencies reported 3,427 IT staff employed just to maintain legacy-programming languages, such as COBOL (1,085) and Fortran (613). This does not even include DOD or Labor because they could not estimate the number of lines of legacy code.
    • DOD’s Strategic Automated Command and Control System is 50 years old and runs on a 1970’s IBM Series/1 Computer that uses 8-inch floppy disks. By comparison, it would take 3.2 million floppy disks to equal the memory of one flash drive.
  • According to GAO, millions of federal dollars can be saved through consolidating data centers throughout the country.  To date, agencies have closed over 3,000 data centers resulting in savings of $2.8 billion.
  • Requirements outlined in the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) need to be implemented at agencies before additional resources are allocated.

PURPOSE:

  • To highlight the cost and security risks of agencies’ legacy information technology (IT).
  • To review a May 2016 GAO report on legacy IT and agency responses to the Committee’s request for information on legacy IT.
  • To discuss potential strategies to address this impending crisis.

BACKGROUND:

  • Federal agencies spend over $80 billion annually on IT with the majority of spending focused on maintaining and operating legacy IT systems.
  • In a soon to be released report, GAO found, “federal legacy IT investments are becoming increasingly obsolete” with outdated software languages and hardware parts that are not supported. In some cases, GAO found agencies are using systems that have components at least 50 years old.
  • In December 2015, the Committee led an effort to send a bipartisan and bicameral letter to all 24 major agencies requesting information on agencies’ use of legacy IT.

Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT): “The Committee made a request … We asked to identify the top three mission critical IT systems in need of modernization—that seems like a simple request. Every other agency and department we asked for was willing to cooperate. The only one that wasn’t was HHS.”

Information Technology Subcommittee Chairman Will Hurd (R-TX): “$80 billion is being spent on IT procurement, 80 percent of it is on legacy systems—it’s about using American taxpayer dollars wisely, it’s about making sure we have an efficient government that’s providing services to our citizens, and it’s making sure that we’re using technology that’s keeping us safe and protecting our digital infrastructure.”

Witnesses and testimonies

Name Title Organization Panel Document
Mr. Dave Powner Director, IT Management Issues Government Accountability Office Document
Mr. Terry Milholland Chief Technology Officer, Internal Revenue Service Department of Treasury Document
Mr. Terry Halvorsen Chief Information Officer Department of Defense Document
Ms. Beth Killoran Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer Department of Health and Human Services Document
The Honorable Tony Scott Federal Chief Information Officer Office of Management and Budget Document

Related Documents

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