Trump order on cybersecurity to include nod to IT modernization, report says

(Graphic by Emma Whitehead / Photo: Gage Skidmore)

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An executive order President Donald Trump is expected to sign on federal cybersecurity will direct agency heads to “plan for the deliberate modernization of the federal executive branch IT,” a White House official told Tuesday’s press pool.

While reporters have not yet seen the official language of the executive order, a White House official on Tuesday read a statement for reporters indicating what the order would entail. White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the the daily briefing that Trump might sign an executive order on cybersecurity Tuesday, but there were no further developments as of early evening.

The White House later told CNBC the signing of the cybersecurity executive order was canceled for Tuesday.

“The executive order is the first step in the president taking the address of new security challenges in the 21st century,” Spicer said Tuesday.

The White House official’s comments to the press pool also mentioned that Trump’s recently appointed technology assistant would be working on that order.

Trump this month named Reed Cordish to be his assistant for intragovernmental and technology initiatives in the White House. Cordish — a Baltimore-based principal and partner of the Cordish Companies, an international real estate development and entertainment company founded and owned by his family — will focus on technology innovation and modernization, and initiatives that require cross-agency coordination, according to a release.

[Read more: Trump names assistant for technology initiatives]

When asked if it would cost a lot of money to upgrade systems governmentwide, the White House official said the idea behind the order is to ask government to work with Congress to present a methodology for funding IT modernization. The official noted that while it would cost money, so does maintaining legacy IT infrastructure.

The official was not prepared to call on Congress to do anything related to the order, according to the pool report, but the official did note Congress would be a partner on IT modernization.

Several bills to fund modernization were proposed during former President Barack Obama’s tenure. Those efforts coalesced into Texas Republican Rep. Will Hurd’s Modernizing Government Technology Act of 2016, which passed the House but failed to pass the Senate.

That bill would have created individual IT working capital funds for each of the 24 CFO Act agencies and a centralized IT modernization fund housed in the Treasury Department that executive branch agencies could have applied to draw from.

The bill hit a snag in the Senate when Congress’ budget analysts said the bill would cost billions of dollars to implement.

[Read more: Hurd: Multibillion-dollar cost estimate hampering tech bill]

Hurd noted at the time that while he was disappointed the bill likely wouldn’t be passed that session, “we have an opportunity in less than a month to get back at this and do it again” when the 115th Congress convenes.

So far, Hurd has not reintroduced the bill.

On the expected executive order, a co-sponsor on Hurd’s bill, Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., said Tuesday “the devil is going to be in the details.”

In a statement provided to FedScoop via email, Connolly said, “We can’t just give lip service to the federal government’s growing IT needs, and the need for modernization won’t be satisfied with a reshuffling of organizational charts. The MGT Act is an important first step in leveraging savings for IT modernization purposes. I hope the new administration will be open to making these investments, at least, for the sake of cybersecurity.”

Connolly notably helped pen the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act passed in 2014.

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Cybersecurity, Donald Trump, information technology, IT Modernization, IT Modernization Fund, Modernizing Government Technology Act, Reed Cordish, Will Hurd
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