Some federal agencies set for overdue tech upgrades

Politics

WASHINGTON (NewsNation) — With a few major government organizations getting an overhaul, some are wondering what took so long.

In the case of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s the bureaucracy that took a global pandemic to reveal.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) believes an additional 87,000 agents will streamline the agency — one still using computer code designed back in 1959. The $80 billion agency revamp is promised to clear through a backlog of unprocessed claims, and upgrade the archaic technology.

In 2019, the IRS attempted to modernize and expand online access to improve real-time tax filing. But some aspects — facial recognition software being one — were not well-received by the public.

Government computers, from the Treasury Department to the Department of Defense, are running on systems using outdated language and operating with known security vulnerabilities, according to the Government Accountability Office.

The operation that keeps the U.S.’s dams and power plants running also uses obsolete hardware no longer supported by its manufacturers. 

The Federal Aviation Administration system that provides information on homeland security and aviation accidents runs on a disc-operated system with applications dating back to the 1980s.

In the case of the CDC, it wasn’t just the technology.

The director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, who lead the agency through part of the COVID-19 pandemic, conceded this week that “in our big moment, our performance did not reliably meet expectations.”

Their plans to right the ship? Quicker CDC responses and clearer messaging, to name a few.

Attempts to spruce up other federal agencies are, however, falling short.

One expert said that’s due to a revolving door within the departments.

“So the problem here is that it’s hard for a short-term leader to take on long-term technology transformation even if they have the skills and the will to see it through,” said Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service. 

Another challenge, according to industry experts, is finding workers willing to get into the tech field.

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