MEGABYTE Act Seeks to Control Government Software Spending

The federal government is spending billions of dollars on redundant enterprise software licenses. The MEGABYTE Act hopes to put controls in place.

software spending

The federal government wastes a reported $4 billion a year by poorly managing software licenses. Sens. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Gary Peters, D-Mich., hope to remedy this through an act with an admirable intention and acronym, the Making Electronic Government Accountable by Yielding Tangible Efficiencies Act, or the MEGABYTE Act.

But although MEGABYTE made it on to the June 7 schedule of the Democratic Whip, along with 10 other bills, it doesn't appear to have received attention yet.

"Billions of taxpayer dollars could be saved if federal agencies keep track of what software they buy. It's irresponsible they don't do so already," Cassidy said in a Dec. 7 statement, after introducing the legislation to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. "Tax dollars could be better used on our troops and our classrooms, not redundant software licenses."

He noted in his statement that, according to the non-partisan Government Accountability Office, a single office could save $181 million in taxpayer money each year.

The act asks for several actions, including:

— The director of the Office of Management and Budget require agencies to identify a person within each organization to be in charge of overseeing and managing enterprise software license agreements and commercial software licenses;

— Establish a comprehensive inventory of licenses, including 80 percent of software license spending;

— Track and maintain licenses through their life cycles;

— Analyze software usage and other data to make cost-effective decisions;

—Provide any relevant training;

— Establish goals and objectives for managing software licenses; and

— Consider the software license management life cycle, to implement effective decision-making and incorporate standards, processes and metrics.

The act is similar to the broader Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA), which passed in the House in 2014 and was being implemented in December, according to a report from Federal News Radio.

The SmartBuy Initiative was another effort to curb software spending—or "decrease the cost of widely used commercial software." It was run by the General Services Administration and had buy-in from the Department of Energy, but was minimally effective.