Senate lawmakers are expected in the coming weeks to consider the Improving Intergovernmental Cooperation and Reducing Duplication Act of 2022, which is intended to allow state, local and tribal government entities to adopt platforms already in use by other government agencies.
It will be the third time that lawmakers seek to review the bill after it was previously twice pulled from consideration following objections from Republican lawmakers on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee.
If it passes into law, the bill would also streamline the processes that federal government agencies must follow to adopt technology and tools developed by the General Services Administration and other departments.
According to multiple sources briefed on the bill, the legislation is focused on the Login.gov identity management platform and would potentially allow state and local governments to adopt existing federally built technology instead of relying on private sector solutions.
Senior technologists within the General Services Administration and the Office of Management and Budget are understood to support the legislation, and advocates of the bill say it has the potential to cut technology procurement costs for taxpayers and improve customer experience.
However, industry critics of the bill warn it could stymy innovation and result in federal agencies replicating off-the-shelf private sector solutions, which would prove costly and unnecessary.
“Why would we use tax dollars for programs that aren’t providing best-in-breed processes — because that’s essentially what this legislation would do,” said one industry IT leader speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Another former federal IT leader now working in industry expressed concern that the legislation could result in overreach and waste.
“When I looked at this [bill] draft I thought: ‘wait a minute’. The federal government already has a long way to go to improve how it approaches IT acquisition.” She added: “Let’s get the federal space right before we tackle other problems.”
Supporters of the bill say that IT acquisition leaders within the government are not trying to replicate existing private sector products and that technology companies still provide the underlying infrastructure for systems such as Login.gov.
“I think the [Senate] committee is aware of the concerns from an industry perspective that creating IT systems to compete with commercial technology is a bad idea,” said one industry trade group source. They added: “The committee has assured people from industry that OMB and the folks that will implement the legislation will lean into current policies to reinforce and leverage commercial technology wherever possible.”
Currently, state and local entities are able to use GSA schedules only in certain circumstances, such as to purchase services relating to disaster response, law enforcement services and IT services.
The use of identity management services and other heavily data-reliant technology platforms across government has attracted scrutiny in recent months following concerns over the use of powerful facial recognition technology from IT services vendor ID.me.
If S.3890 passes in its current form, GSA will be able to offer reimbursable and non-reimbursable services to state and local entities, which represents a major change from current funding structures. One legislative source said this language is intended to give the agency more flexibility at the prototyping stage of projects and to reduce reliance on the Acquisition Services Fund.
The bill was introduced in March and received bipartisan support from Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Steve Daines, R-Mont.
“This commonsense, bipartisan bill will increase cooperation between all levels of government to improve the ability of state and local governments to provide critical services more efficiently and save taxpayer dollars as they help carry out many federal programs,” Sen. Peters said when the bill was introduced.
Sen. Daines added: “I’m glad to join colleagues across the aisle to make it easier for Montanans to communicate, coordinate and connect with the federal government.”
OMB did not respond to a request for comment. GSA declined to comment.