Agencies still queueing for TMF funds

shutterstock image By enzozo; photo ID: 319763930 

With $55 million still on the table for fiscal year 2018, the board charged with approving and distributing Technology Modernization Fund dollars has plenty of projects to choose from.

Liz Cain, executive director of the General Services Administration-based TMF program management office, said the board, chaired by Federal CIO Suzette Kent, has received "about three dozen proposals from about 12 different agencies."

Cain also offered more details about the proposals the board, which she said has been meeting every Monday, has received and advanced.

Of these, Cain said "about half" of the projects make it from phase one -- a two- or three-page description of the proposal -- to phase two -- a more in-depth proposal that stretches to eight or 10 pages. The requests have ranged in cost from $150,000 to "more than $100 million," she said, adding that most have been between $2 million to $40 million.

So far, three projects -- one each from the Departments of Agriculture, Energy and Housing and Urban Development -- have been approved by the board for a total of $45 million. Cain said the awarded agencies are currently working on their acquisition plans.

For the remaining $55 million, Cain offered details about how agencies can maximize their chances at receiving money from the centralized fund.

For future proposals, Cain said "the board would love to see" projects that involve emerging technologies, as well as shared services or other common solutions. Earlier this week, Margaret Weichert, serving dually as the deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Personnel Management director, said she expects to see more data projects submitted for consideration.

The small office Cain leads helps agencies throughout the TMF process, with support for agencies deciding to apply, actually applying, paying the fund back, plus working through any complications that may arise during the process.

Some agencies have opted not to use TMF for various reasons, including challenges in putting together repayment plans and trepidation over the requirements that come with potential project approval.

While not every agency current has the authority to use working capital funds, Cain said OMB is working with those who want to establish an agency-based fund, adding "we haven't heard so far that not having one is holding agencies back" in the TMF process.

Securing future funding for the TMF also remains up in the air. After the House approved a $150 million allocation, Senate appropriators zeroed out its funding in the Financial Services and General Government bill in fiscal year 2019, citing opacity from OMB during the awards process. While board members have expressed confidence OMB and Kent have been addressing those concerns, the money still hasn't yet been restored in the FSGG bill, which is part of the funding under a continuing resolution until Dec. 9.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter


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