December 03, 2014

Udall Secures Provisions in NDAA to Improve Tech Transfer at New Mexico's National Labs, Begin Federal IT Reform

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Tom Udall today announced that he has successfully pushed for key reforms to fund technology transfer at New Mexico's national laboratories and upgrade how the federal government buys and manages information technology (IT) as part of a critical national defense bill. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Udall has championed tech transfer and IT reform, and the inclusion of his provisions in the end-of-year National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) will help researchers spin off new businesses from New Mexico's national labs and modernize the government's technology systems while saving billions of taxpayers' dollars.

"By directing the Department of Energy to prioritize spending on technology transfer from our national labs, my provisions will support Los Alamos and Sandia labs as they move innovation from the lab bench to the marketplace," Udall said of the provision on technology transfer.

Regarding federal IT reform, Udall added: "It's past time to develop federal information technology (IT) systems for the 21st century, and the provisions included in this bill constitute the first major overhaul of government IT procurement in more than a decade. When enacted, these reforms will cut waste to save New Mexico taxpayers' money and help avoid IT failures like the initial rollout of the healthcare.gov website."

Federal IT Reform
The federal government spends about $80 billion on information technology annually. At a May 2014 Senate hearing chaired by Udall, the Government Accountability Office announced that at least 154 major federal IT investments totaling $10.4 billion are at risk and in need of management attention. In December 2013, Udall and Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) introduced a bipartisan bill to overhaul the IT procurement process, which served as the basis for the reforms announced today as part of the NDAA. The provisions included in the NDAA would give additional responsibilities to Chief Information Officers of governmental agencies, enhance transparency and improve risk management in IT investments, create a government-wide software purchasing program and encourage federal data center consolidation.

Tech Transfer
Udall's tech transfer amendment in the NDAA clarifies and strengthens existing law related to tech transfer funding. The new language directs DOE to prioritize spending on energy technology commercialization from our national laboratories, and addresses issues also noted by the DOE Inspector General (IG). In a February 2014 report, the IG found that "instead of identifying and directing funds for the Commercialization Fund to the achievement of specified goals, the Department deployed a retrospective approach" by merely classifying existing spending as technology transfer to meet the Congressional requirement from the 2005 Energy Policy Act. Udall's amendment further instructs DOE to take a proactive approach to plan for additional tech transfer activities, thus ensuring that dedicated funds are put to use. In March 2014, Udall introduced the Accelerating Technology Transfer to Advance Innovation for the Nation (ATTAIN) Act to further improve DOE's tech transfer program, and will continue to push for passage of this broader legislation.

The NDAA, which has been negotiated by the House and Senate, was introduced in the House on Tuesday, with a vote expected this week. The Senate is expected to take up the measure next week.