Even Though IT Procurement Isn’t Sexy, You Should Care

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Congressman Will Hurd stands in front of an outdoor food truck park at Rackspace. Photo by Scott Ball.

Congressman Will Hurd stands in front of an outdoor food truck park at Rackspace. Photo by Scott Ball.

Nobody has ever held a rally in support of or against the topic of IT procurement – it’s not a sexy topic. Talking heads on television don’t spend time addressing the issue nor do bureaucrats in Washington, but they should. The federal government spends more than $80 billion dollars a year on IT procurement and 80% of that money is spent on legacy systems – systems that any reasonable person would consider old and outdated.

The U.S. Department of Labor has a 30-year-old system developed by people who are now all dead. They had to resort to looking for old parts on eBay.

The Chief Information Officer of the Office of Personnel Management actually testified before Congress that their antiquated mainframe IT system, written in the programming language COBOL, was a cybersecurity asset. The Chinese government disagreed and anyone who had ever worked for the federal government or held a security clearance or has a relative with a security clearance paid the price for such outdated thinking.

We must do better.

Which is why I held a Congressional hearing this past week at the University of Texas at San Antonio to interview experts and gather information on how the Federal Government should ditch their antiquated IT servers and move over to cloud computing systems – services that companies like San Antonio’s own Rackspace provides. Congressional hearings are usually held in Washington, D.C., but since I am the Chairman of the House IT Subcommittee, I decided to bring the action down to San Antonio where groundbreaking cybersecurity work is being done.

San Antonio is Cyber City, U.S.A. Outside of D.C., we are home to more cyber professionals than anywhere else in the nation. The University of Texas at San Antonio now has one of the leading cyber programs in the U.S., and the United States Department of Defense and U.S. Department of Homeland Security have assets in San Antonio that focus on cyber operations every day.

In addition to growing job opportunities and raising average incomes, San Antonio companies like Rackspace are creating products that can make the federal government’s digital infrastructure more efficient, cost effective and safer. Converting government departments over to cloud technology would save taxpayer dollars that we could use for Pell Grants to help kids go to college or for a new Federal Courthouse that is necessary to ensure public safety.

Cloud technology is not only cheaper, it can be more secure. By continuing to use outdated equipment and techniques, the federal government is vulnerable to attacks that threaten the privacy of individuals and the security of our nation. The recent OPM hack highlighted that most federal agencies are behind the curve when it comes to adopting current technology to keep our data secure.

Ultimately, the Federal Government needs to stop wasting our hard-earned money and drive down IT costs and improve our digital security by moving to the cloud far more quickly than it is.

As the IT Subcommittee Chairman, I have direct oversight of this issue and will work to speed this process along. This recent hearing was a chance for me to look for answers from folks dealing with the issue of cybersecurity every day and to highlight the important role San Antonio is playing in this new digital frontier. It has been incredible to see my hometown transform into a cutting-edge city that attracts global corporations and high-skilled workers and I’m going to continue to look to San Antonio for solutions to our problems in D.C. and find ways to ensure the Alamo City takes center stage on such critical issues.

 

*Top image: Congressman Will Hurd stands in front of an outdoor food truck park at Rackspace.  Photo by Scott Ball. 

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2 thoughts on “Even Though IT Procurement Isn’t Sexy, You Should Care

  1. Thank you for your efforts, Congressman Hurd. Our Nation’s data security is at risk more than ever and having 30+ year old legacy systems and old technology operating our government puts us at risk every day. We need to identify which systems are most at risk, appropriate funds to remedy that and then start upgrading and improving them one at a time if that is what it takes.

  2. Unfortunately the federal government will not use systems in which they do not own and operate. The government only works with contractors who ad-here to certain guidelines as far as the individuals who have access to the systems as well as the facilities in which they work. While I do believe the government needs to transition from an outdated COBOL mainframe it is foolish to think it that it won’t be costly in both time and money.

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