A divided Congress in an election year makes for interesting times in the tech industry and IT. Factor in federal budget pressures and the public’s low confidence in government, and you have a perfect storm, notes NASCIO Executive Director Doug Robinson.
At this week’s NASCIO 2012 Midyear Conference, leaders discussed debate over legislation as it pertains to telecommunications and technology. “A lot of programs are getting cut in the state and local area. We’ll have less money coming from D.C., and state budgets aren’t fully recovered,” said Pamela Richardson Walker, director of government affairs for NASCIO.
Trey Hodgkins, senior vice president for national security and federal procurement policy at TechAmerica, said, “You’re going to have a significant partisan atmosphere. Dysfunctional is a really good word about what we’re faced with.”
According to the panel discussion, “Choppy Seas — Federal Legislation,” the key Congressional tech issues to watch include:
- Cybersecurity legislation
- Government transparency: DATA Act (HR 2146)
- Privacy (online, Bill of Rights, mobile apps)
- Program integrity, improper payments
- Internet sales tax
- R&D credits
- IT workforce and talent shortage
Walker noted that cybersecurity has become a partisan issue, and part of the debate around critical infrastructure involves whether it should be regulated or not. “The legislation doesn’t really discuss the role of the public sector in cybersecurity,” she said. “We’re going to be the first responders if something happens.… We have a lot of info to protect because we have people’s identities from cradle to death.” She was optimistic about cybersecurity legislation passing this year, noting that Sen. Joe Lieberman is retiring, and the Lieberman-Collins bill could be his swan song.
Observers are also tracking legislation around government transparency. DATA Act of 2146 passed in the House, while the companion bill in the Senate is now very different. “The premise behind this is twofold: There is a persistent problem with data quality, where the government really doesn’t have a significant level of transparency into what it does with its money,” said Hodgkins.
With billions of dollars lost on fraud, waste and abuse and the recent Government Services Administration fiasco, there’s a heightened focus on program integrity. To reduce unemployment fraud stemming from people not notifying states when they find a new job, Walker said some states are working with banks to identify workers who are getting paid through direct deposit.
Robinson noted that data analytics, identity access management and data standardization all can help to root out fraud. Hodgkins pointed to the potential for big data —“Stop trying to look within one silo, but dump it all together. Begin to look for patterns and trends.”