Hice: Without Modern Technology, Agency Missions & Taxpayer Resources are at Risk

Published: Oct 7, 2020

WASHINGTON – Government Operations Subcommittee Ranking Member Jody Hice (R-Ga.) opened today’s hearing on federal information technology modernization at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by emphasizing that the agency needs to meet modern day challenges, steward taxpayer dollars, and ensure the success of its critical mission.

At the hearing, Subcommittee Ranking Member Hice warned that many agencies continue to spend money on the operations and maintenance of old systems rather than invest in modernized technology to improve government efficiency. He underscored that operational problems are also caused by legal, procedural, workforce, and data access challenges and called on his colleagues to work together in a bipartisan fashion to ensure agencies, like the IRS, successfully modernize their IT capabilities without wasting taxpayer dollars.

Below are Subcommittee Ranking Member Hice’s remarks as prepared for delivery.

Chairman Connolly, thank you for holding this very important hearing today on Federal IT modernization.

As this Subcommittee has been tracking in previous hearings this summer, legacy IT systems pose risks to Federal agency missions by preventing the ability to rapidly increase and reprogram operations to meet new mission needs and Congressional mandates.

Many agencies, and especially the Internal Revenue Service, are challenged by older IT systems and complicated, multi-year modernization efforts.

Without modern technology systems that can meet modern day challenges, agency missions are at risk and taxpayer resources will continue to be spent on archaic and inefficient technology of ages past.

This Committee understands how the Federal government continues to spend a majority of the IT budget merely maintaining these legacy IT systems instead of investing in IT modernization reforms.

With a majority of agency IT spending going to the operations and maintenance of these old systems, new investments are crowded out.

We have talked about a different approach that utilizes multi-year IT funding mechanisms that Congress recently established.

However, it is up to each agency to appropriately utilize these new resources.

And with the Internal Revenue Service specifically, some modernization efforts, despite repeated large investment by the Congress – that is the taxpayers – continue to drag on and seemingly never reach completion.

How is Congress supposed to have faith that another 1 or 2 billion dollars dedicated to IRS technology modernization, as has been proposed by various House and Senate proposals, actually get us anything in return?

This Committee wants to understand how these pervasive and continual challenges can be addressed-this is a bipartisan issue with potential bipartisan legislative solutions.

But we have to understand the actual problems preventing agencies like the IRS from moving into a modern, agile, and robust technology operating environment.

To be fair, in a rapid response to this global pandemic passed a number of new emergency assistance programs into law this past spring.

Such unprecedented mandates to rapidly issue payments to nearly every American taxpayer was handled in an extraordinarily swift manner by the Internal Revenue System.

However, like nearly every other large enterprise in the world, the IRS had its own operational challenges related to the pandemic.

And there have been ongoing issues with CARES Act stimulus payments reaching their intended destinations.

However, not every operational problem is a technology problem–there are legal, procedural, workforce, and data access challenges.

We need to understand the actual cause of an issue before we can recommend a policy solution, and I hope this hearing will be informative towards that end.

For instance, Mr. Chairman, I am intrigued by our joint staff discussions regarding a draft legislative concept that could help agency strategic and performance planning incorporate a better understanding of IT and data capabilities as identified by the appropriate agency leaders.

Such a legislative idea would be responsive to what we learned at our July 20th IT Modernization Subcommittee hearing about the need for agency program planning and Congressional mandates to also factor in IT capabilities.

I look forward to continued bipartisan legislative work that is similarly responsive to the expert testimony we receive at our hearings.

To that point, Commissioner Rettig, I hope that you and the other witnesses can help me and my colleagues understand how we can address the underlying barriers preventing successful technology modernization to assure the success of the IRS’s critical mission.

Congress cannot continue to blindly throw money at IT problems–we need a new approach.

And finally, I want to thank all our witnesses for bearing with these abnormal remote Congressional proceedings and for participating in today’s hybrid hearing

I yield back.