Michael Richards
Director, Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Technology Engagement Center (C_TEC)

Published

January 19, 2023

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Last week, commercial aviation came to a screeching halt. As a critical industry that is a massive economic driver within the United States, commercial aviation equates to 5% of the U.S. GDP or close to 1.25 trillion dollars. The reason for this disruption was that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Notice to Air Mission (NOTAMs) system failed. The system, which is imperative for keeping air travelers and our skies safe, provides critical information to pilots about potential safety concerns regarding their flights. Since the initial reports for the delays and the issue with NOTAMs have come to light, many are learning about this system and the broader issue of “outdated technology” transpiring throughout the federal government. The ongoing issue of reliance on “antiquated” or “legacy” systems to fulfill complex and essential government functions has become an increasingly more visible issue to the general public. 

These critical systems do not become outdated overnight—it takes years and decades of government not prioritizing and making the necessary investments.  The need for these modernization investments is often well documented—notably for the NOATMs system, which the Department of Transportation has routinely requested upgrades to for the past several years. The Department of Transportation's Budget Request for Fiscal Year 23, Year 22, and Year 21 specifically highlights the need to modernize the NOTAMs system.  

While Congress and the Executive Branch continue to oversee and address problems associated with the lack of modernization—including passing critical legislative proposals such as the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) and the Modernizing Government Technology Act (MGT ACT)—there is more to be done to solve this problem once and for all.  

Late last year, the Chamber Technology Engagement Center released the report, “Government Digitization: Transforming Government to Better Serve Americans.” The report outlined ten specific ways in which government should look to modernize in order to reduce costs, increase efficiencies, build resilience, and better serve Americans. The report also outlined four specific policy recommendations that Congress can take to address oversight, increased funding, and educating local and state governments about already available resources.    

Last week's failure has sadly become one of many that continue to highlight the need for government officials to work together and address the need for widespread modernization. Sharing best practices and how to change cultures throughout Capitol Hill and within federal agencies on the need to prioritize digital transformation is a critical step to ensuring these issues get resolved 

To raise awareness and share vital lessons on this issue, the Chamber Technology Engagement Centers' will host its inaugural Digital Transformation Summit on February 2nd. The summit will convene private and public sector leaders who seek to modernize government technology systems that have been obsolete for decades. The Summit brings together government CIOs from across the country, policymakers such as Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), and private sector innovators to address the challenges and opportunities of digitizing government, modernizing systems, and making infrastructure smart for all citizens.

Americans deserve government agencies that use cutting-edge technology to meet their missions. The Digital Transformation Summit is a forum that will bring awareness to this issue and encourage increased action and investment in information technology across the public and private sectors.   

About the authors

Michael Richards

Michael Richards

Director, Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Technology Engagement Center (C_TEC)