The Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) has seen major improvements to agencies’ modernization and cybersecurity efforts as the program looks to tackle new challenges following a $1 billion boost in funding in March, TMF leaders explained during MeriTalk’s TMF Forward virtual event last month.
“The fund helps agencies kickstart vital IT modernization efforts that the annual appropriations process does not often fund. That's why I’ve consistently advocated for more funding for the TMF, urging house and Senate leadership to make the needed investments in federal IT,” Rep. Gerry Connolly, chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, said during the event.
In March 2021, the TMF received an additional $1 billion via the American Rescue Plan (ARP), and the additional funds gave agencies more opportunities to tackle more complex IT projects. To improve allocation, GSA and OMB launched a more flexible funding process in May 2021 that prioritizes investments in agency proposals that focus on modernizing high-priority systems, cybersecurity, public-facing digital services and cross-government services and infrastructure.
The TMF has seen significant Congressional approval over the course of the past year and a half during the pandemic. Connolly explained that COVID-19 only heightened the need for modernized and secure IT infrastructures to support growing IT demands and mitigate evolving cyber risks.
"By modernizing IT infrastructure, we can deliver services to the public that are intuitive, accessible and responsive to customer needs, and we can ensure the private data stays private and the taxpayer dollars are used wisely and effectively. It’s time we made real investments in IT modernization, transitioning systems off legacy code bases and moving to the cloud. These investments will pay enormous dividends in the long run, save taxpayer dollars and grow public trust in the government,” Connolly said.
With the Biden Administration’s Build Back Better bill, passed by the House, TMF could see another $250 million in funding. Connolly explained that the additional funds would enable agencies to modernize their systems and provide improved and more secure experiences for customers, moving from outdated and expensive IT legacy systems to scalable, more affordable cloud-based systems.
Connolly noted that TMF will continue to invest in cybersecurity projects to support agencies’ efforts to align with President Biden’s Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity. Looking ahead, the TMF board will be verifying that submissions are aligned to an enterprise cybersecurity and IT modernization plan and that agencies are using basic and best practices for digital modernization, which are "essential to an investment success,” said Federal CIO Clare Martorana.
“To get there, we really need to operate as one team for America. My priority has and continues to be cybersecurity,” Martorana said. "This means every agency and department needs to be aligned to an enterprise cybersecurity and IT modernization plan. Secure technology is the base layer, the foundation, that underpins the government’s ability to deliver simple, seamless, secure experiences for our customers.”
TMF is also looking to break the cycle of IT funding silos to reduce risk, better identify operating systems and improve authentication. Martorana noted that it’s essential to connect systems, processes and policies to enable customers to move seamlessly within and across agencies.
“We need to leverage the government's buying power. It's pretty great. We have an opportunity to improve the customer experience and accessibility for our team and staff by leveraging this power, and it'll also help us expedite digital transformation across government,” Martorana said.
The TMF Board, which manages the fund, will also accelerate equity and accessibility. The recent President's Management Agenda (PMA) has emphasized an equitable, effective and accountable government. The draft PMA includes a section on delivering programs and services effectively, with a focus on reducing administrative burdens and improving customer service, as well as a section of questions about how the federal government can advance equity and support underserved communities.
“We'll only be able to deliver an equitable and effective government if we hold ourselves accountable,” Martorana said.
For the next phases of TMF, the board will move toward “a sustained state,” where it will award the remaining ARP funding in fiscal year 2022. For the proposals currently in the pipeline, the demand exceeds the supply by over 2.5 times, Martorana said.
"It's important to note that TMF is not here to be an annual appropriation. Our friends on the Hill take care of that. It's here to serve as a catalyst to take something, to make an impact, to share playbooks and best practices that can be scaled across government. How I think about it is TMF is really an outcomes model where tech experts are involved every step of the way and help support the project throughout its life cycle,” Martorana said.