Hurd: ‘Three-Legged Stool’ key to federal IT reform

By Sean McCalley
Federal News Radio

An “over classification” problem plagues federal data that could help the private sector fend off terrorist attacks, or help with cross-agency collaboration, said Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) on In Depth with Francis Rose.

Hurd is the new chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on IT. He laid out four areas he hopes the subcommittee can make a legislative impact. The first is cybersecurity.

“That’s helping with information sharing,” said Hurd. “I look at my committee … as shedding the light on some of the issues and working with the authorizing committee and the appropriators to pass legislation that fixes some of the problems.”

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The next, he said, is privacy; specifically, how to balance civil liberties with protecting the nation’s digital infrastructure. To do that, Hurd hopes to draw upon his professional background with the Central Intelligence Agency.

The third is figuring out a productive, yet safe way to handle emerging technologies for the federal government. He said that spans the technology gamut from wireless health devices like Fitbit that face problems with the Food and Drug Administration, to 3-D printing.

“3-D printing is a great idea,” said Hurd. “Until you 3-D print a gun. Or 3-D print something with patent issues.”

The fourth and final top priority for his subcommittee is IT procurement reform, and figuring out the best legislative path to reducing waste, fraud and abuse in that domain.

Hurd said the federal government is already well equipped to handle those priorities, but it needs more leadership and direction to perfect them. Particularly when it comes to national security, from an IT perspective, which he said draws upon those four priorities and the aforementioned “over classification” problem. It’s also the subject of his subcommittee’s first hearing scheduled for Feb. 25.

“We have the talent, we have the folks that ‘get it,'” said Hurd. “I think there’s an over classification of information that hinders its sharing. I think the liability protection that is needed in order to [incentivize] the private sector to share some of their information is not there.”

Three-legged stool approach

When it comes to replacing legacy systems that have an up-front cost but can save money in the future, or listening to federal agency recommendations to improve the nation’s digital infrastructure, Hurd said everything is on the table.

“This is about creating an efficient government,” said Hurd. “If we’re able to realize savings and turn those things around, to where we can empower the CIOs in order to better protect our infrastructure, then we’ll do it.”

A “three-legged stool” approach will be key to that success, he said. The three legs are his own committee shining a light on the problem, House authorizing committees then can pass draft legislation and House appropriators than can ensure funding. He said federal information technology is an area where the House, the Senate and the White House can work together to make progress.

To maximize his own committee’s contributions to that three-legged stool, Hurd said he’ll tap into his college education in computer science, and a career in the CIA as a case officer for counterterrorism and offensive cyber operations. “I was the guy in the back alley at 4 o’clock in the morning,” he said.

Hurd decided to run for office when he saw the caliber of our nation’s Congress.

“One of the other things I had to do [as a CIA employee] was brief members of Congress,” said Hurd. “I was pretty disappointed in the caliber of our elected leaders. So I decided to run.”

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