IT Modernization

House funding bill zeroes out IT modernization fund

shutterstock image By enzozo; photo ID: 319763930 

The funding bill introduced by House Democrats to end the shutdown zeroes out a popular program among the federal IT community: the Technology Modernization Fund.

Authorized via the Modernizing Government Act, the TMF was authorized for up to $250 million in each of fiscal years 2018 and 2019, ultimately receiving $100 million this past year.

The new House measure would not allocate money for the TMF.

The House bill doesn't appear to be going anywhere, however. A White House policy statement released Jan. 3 announced that President Donald Trump would veto the measure if passed by Congress. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he would not advance a bill that Trump wouldn't sign. Still, it's possible that the TMF funding, a tiny sidelight in a massive appropriations bill, could remain unfunded as a legislative compromise advances.

"It's disappointing to see new Democratic leadership zero out something that" with popularity across the political spectrum, said Mike Hettinger, a former Hill staffer and currently a lobbyist specializing in procurement and IT issues. "I think year two funding of this program is essential to the program's success."

Back in 2016, new House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) supported the MGT Act in its original iteration, which targeted $3 billion for the central fund.

Even before the shutdown, the fund's future was in doubt. In June, House appropriators approved $150 million for next year, but the Senate later zeroed out its funding. Yet Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), the MGT Act's chief sponsor, repeatedly expressed confidence in recent months that transparency issues raised by Senate appropriators had been resolved.

"I still believe — since I wrote the bill — that the meat of the bill is the working capital fund, not the TMF fund," Hurd told FCW in December. "Since the working capital fund is the indication of a culture of modernization."

Not all of the $100 million allocated for fiscal year 2018 has been doled out yet. About $23.5 million remains to be awarded by the seven-member TMF Board, chaired by Federal CIO Suzette Kent. To date, agencies have submitted about 40 proposals vying for a slice of modernization dollars.

Also in December, Kent told FCW the answer to whether TMF was working "is a resounding yes," adding she was "very hopeful moving forward" appropriators would continue supporting the fund.

"I am hoping they are seeing the results and outcomes because our CIOs have been fairly vocal about the advantage that not just the award and the opportunity bring, but the discipline of the process," she said.

The General Service Administration's shutdown guidance exempts employees in the TMF program management office from furlough because it is a no-year fund, but notes, "[t]he TMF may initiate a phased shutdown based on available resources."

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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