Co-authored with Emily Gotschalk 

Last month, the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) Information Technology and Cybersecurity Director, Kevin Walsh, testified before the U.S. Senate’s Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Spending Oversight.  His message was clear: until modernization plans for critical federal legacy systems are created and implemented by agencies, those systems are increasingly at risk of cyber vulnerability and exploitation, modernization delays, cost overruns, and obsolescence.

While Director Walsh’s comments were directed at a handful of specific agency systems, his conclusions also apply more broadly to our entire aging federal IT infrastructure.  As he stated, of the more than $100 billion the federal government spends on IT and cyber-related investments each year, about 80% is spent on the “operations and maintenance of existing IT investments”.

The recent revival of the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) – with $1 billion approved by Congress in March – represents an almost six-fold increase in total TMF funding and offers the federal government the potential to deliver more broadly on improved cybersecurity, IT modernization, and mission-critical outcomes. These investments offer the potential to deliver on the promise of not only addressing the urgent technological debt of the federal government today, but also “to anticipate the demands of tomorrow.”

Guided by a holistic architecture approach, the TMF has the potential to become a critical tool in reversing the decline in capital funding, highlighted in the graphic below, as well as to help jumpstart the much-needed transformation of legacy IT across the federal government.

Graphic of IT spend over time











The recent Professional Services Council (PSC) article I co-authored highlighted that if done effectively, IT modernization can and should deliver much more impressive, long-term operational savings, even more so than many would believe possible. As the article outlines, standard industry rule of thumb says that operational costs of running enterprise networks are often more than three times the cost of the actual network infrastructure itself. Meaning that targeted, architecture-delivered approaches can produce total cost savings in the long term.

Furthermore, investments established through opportunities afforded by the TMF could help to facilitate a comprehensive security posture to manage and mitigate supply chain risk. Built using fundamentally more secure and trustworthy solutions, these modernized technology platforms can help deliver improved agency and citizen outcomes, while protecting against the evolving cyber threat landscape. We can now leverage zero trust frameworks to operationalize cybersecurity architectures at scale and more effectively than ever before.

With this TMF investment increase and relaxed repayment requirements, comes an even greater responsibility for determining how truly transform how our government operates for and builds a more inclusive future. As such, we must look to technology approaches that enable:

  • Architectures that provide cross-domain solutions across disparate federal IT systems
  • More transparent government spending and solution outcomes
  • A government that is more responsive to public needs
  • Environmental, societal, and ethical considerations and concerns
  • Adaptability to changing regulatory environments
  • Flexible, software-defined IT solutions that evolve to deliver on the demands of tomorrow

Today’s technology capabilities include impressive advancements, like in artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) that deliver automation across countless processes. The outlook for the future with the ever-increasing proliferation of innovation gives us nearly limitless possibilities for digital transformation. When coupled with game-changing cyber technologies, these investments toward modernization will help reclaim the cyber high ground from our global adversaries while building superior digital experiences that drive mission success.

As it always has been, Cisco is committed to being your trusted partner in digital transformation. Between the challenges of today and the government of tomorrow, we are powering an inclusive future for all.


Steve Vetter

Senior Strategic Solution Executive and Federal Strategist

U.S. Public Sector