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Gordon Bitko, Senior Vice President of Policy at ITI, discusses the rebuilding of U.S. supply chains and the future of IT modernization in government

President-elect Joe Biden has announced what he calls the Biden Plan to Rebuild U.S. Supply Chains. Its components indicate he is likely to shift priorities from the Trump Administration in information technology.

With the new administration, it is likely that considerable investment in IT systems can happen, according to Gordon Bitko, former CIO of the FBI. Although the composition of Congress did not change a lot on Election Day, Bitko said there is a consensus in Congress about the importance of a functioning government with updated systems.

The fact that so many agencies were able to keep going at the level they did during the pandemic was due to investments they made in modernization, Bitko said. There were still a lot of challenges, however, such as the failures of state unemployment insurance systems.

As the Biden administration is talking about more services being provided by the government, there should be renewed emphasis on IT modernization, said Bitko. “It’s also a great way to think about improving the security of those legacy systems and to be thinking about what are the highest risk products and services, and how should we think about supply chain risk in those products as well.”

The Biden Build Back Better plan talks about the importance of buying American, investing in American innovation and reshoring the supply chain. “That’s absolutely 100% correct,” said Bitko. He explained that “what we’d really like to see the Biden administration doing is focusing on the competitiveness of American companies as the way to get to that” through policies that invest in critical technologies.

President-elect Biden’s plan seeks broad-based resilience rather than pure self-sufficiency, which suggests the U.S. does not need to have everything within our borders. Bitko explained, “I think that we all learned some hard lessons during the pandemic about the importance of resiliency, but that doesn’t mean that the best answer is, everything has to be reshored and brought back here.” That would be expensive, time-consuming and inefficient.

Bitko said the approach that has been taken in the past of banning certain countries and products is rigid and makes it difficult for industry and government to work together to ensure American companies can be as competitive as they need to.

Many people expect the Biden administration will bring back some executive orders the Obama-Biden Administration instituted, such as the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order, which could have a big impact on the industry that serves government.

Bitko said one executive order signed by President Trump he hopes will be rescinded is EO 13950 on workplace race and diversity training. He said it has had a “chilling effect” on many companies doing business with the government that have made diversity a priority.

The executive order is scheduled to go into effect for government contractors this weekend, according to Bitko. The Department of Labor has provided some guidance, but there is still a lot of uncertainty. “We are like I said hoping the Biden administration … will take this on and rescind it relatively quickly,” Bitko said.

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