IT MODERNIZATION IS SHOW, MAINTAINING EXISTING SYSTEMS IS DOUGH
When it comes to IT modernization Congress just can’t put its money where its mouth is. Despite a recent GAO report showing that some agency IT systems are 50 years old and operate with equipment barely made in the 21st century, Congress still can’t find more than $35 million to dedicate to modernization. That’s a pretty stark statement, but it’s not necessarily news to IT or telecommunications contractors. There have been at least two recent federal trade press reports pointing out that rhetoric does not match reality when we’re talking IT modernization. At least two-thirds of all federal IT spending go to maintain current systems. Agencies also prefer to “lift and shift” existing systems, instead of updating to technology that could actually reduce overall operating costs and improve security. What really is their incentive, though, when their Congressional overseers dedicate millions to home-state pet projects like buying excess blueberry production? For all of the talk about IT modernization, the real money is in unglamorous areas like patching existing systems, software upgrades, and incremental hardware improvements. While contractors should showcase their new capabilities, just as car dealers put their hottest models in the showroom, they should focus their actual sales efforts on the models in the back of the lot. It would not be surprising for it to take a true national emergency – like a significant part of the electric grid being hacked – before Congress gets the message on increasing IT funding. Until then, remember the golfing adage: “Drive for show, putt for dough”.