A bipartisan bill to strengthen state and local technology governance

 A bipartisan bill to strengthen state and local technology governance

From cyber attacks to the handling of hundreds of billions in federal spending, state and local governments face growing technology challenges. A new bipartisan Senate bill will change mid-century legislation to allow federal agencies to provide technology assistance to state and local partners and encourage greater cooperation between government agencies.

Under the Intergovernmental Cooperation Act of 1968, Congress authorized the executive branch to develop coordination of state, local, territorial, and tribal (SLTT) governments to assist in the administration of federal programs and grants through technical assistance. .

Sens Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), And Kyrsten Cinema (D-Ariz.) Introduced the Improving Intergovernmental Cooperation and Reducing Duplication Act to modernize the law. In particular, the bill updates the definitions under the 1968 law to bring them into line with our modern technology landscape. In addition, the bill would require the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to issue new plans and policies on how to implement the law:

“The bill requires the OMB Director and [Office of Intergovernmental Affairs] to develop a strategic plan to increase intergovernmental cooperation to improve coordination between federal and SLTT governments, increase efficiency, and reduce taxpayer costs. The legislation would require the OMB director to update the more than 50-year-old guide to intergovernmental cooperation to ensure more effective delivery of federal services at all levels of government.

The bill will also update the General Services Administration (GSA) authorities to provide “specialized and technological services” to SLTT governments. In other words, these governments have the option of accessing shared GSA services, currently offered only by federal agencies, to improve government efficiency and management of information technology. In addition to the GSA, all other federal agencies authorized to develop or acquire specific IT or cyber capabilities, such as the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, will also be allowed to extend services directly to SLTT.

For state, local, territory, and tribal governments, the bipartisan initiative has the potential to provide much-needed assistance from Washington at a time when they face increasing cyber threats and growing challenges of simple governance. in government programs.

Many state and local governments are working to manage the cyber risks associated with potential ransomware attacks, involving hackers who steal or encrypt sensitive data and demand payment. These government agencies often have limited resources, including staff with cybersecurity expertise, to implement the best practices to prevent these and other disruptions. Stronger intergovernmental coordination among federal agencies will allow state and local partners to access technology tools and federal contracts to save time and resources while improving security.

Through the expanded Intergovernmental Cooperation Act, the federal government can offer useful technology services, such as Login.gov, without doubling the efforts or requiring state and local governments to acquire or develop their own solutions. in technology. The GSA may also offer SLTT government partners access to federal contracts aimed at responding to the White House executive order to adopt a “zero trust architecture” to improve cyber risk management. .

The potential benefits of increased intergovernmental cooperation go far beyond improving security.

State, local, territory, and tribal governments also managed a growing portion of federal tax dollars, including government benefits relied on by many citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic. Improving the way SLTT governments manage and administer these programs can improve customer service and efficiency.

Strengthening coordination between the Washington governments and SLTT also has the potential to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse. According to the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office, federal agencies reported $ 281 billion in incorrect payments last year. While state and local governments manage large federal programs like Medicaid and hundreds of billions of dollars in emergency spending, billions of tax dollars are put at risk and often wasted due to poor management and poor management.

Promoting intergovernmental cooperation and encouraging shared technology services will help solve these problems. For example, Congress should also require the Office of Administration and Budget and other agencies to adopt the best practices recommended by the Office of Government Accountability and other watchdogs through these new intergovernmental agencies. collaboration to improve government governance.

Sure, the federal government has a similar track record of managing its own cyber risks and overseeing information technology retrieval programs. In addition, watchdogs have identified ways in which agencies can better collaborate in using shared services to improve efficiency. But the potential synergies and security improvements that can be achieved through effective cooperation across federal, state, and local governments are too great to be ignored.

The United States faces significant technology management challenges including growing cyber threats and managing benefit programs. It only makes sense for government agencies at the federal, state, and local levels to try to improve efficiency through collaboration. The update of the Intergovernmental Cooperation Act of 1968 is often a step forward.

Dan Lips is the head of policy at Lincoln Network.

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