House Oversight presses for details on TMF repayment plans
- By Natalie Alms
- Apr 13, 2021
A group of House Democrats are asking the administration to create a plan for how it will protect the self-sustaining model of the Technology Modernization Fund and how it will pick projects to fund in the wake of a massive boost in TMF funding from the American Rescue Plan.
The pandemic relief package gave the revolving fund $1 billion. TMF traditionally has received appropriations in the range of $25 million, and concerns remain from those both in and out of government on how the money will be spent.
In a letter sent to Shalanda Young, the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Katy Kale, the acting administrator at the General Services Administration, five lawmakers from the House Oversight and Reform Committee asked that those in charge of TMF not let its reimbursement model “atrophy.”
The fund was designed with the idea that it would be self-sustaining. Agencies awarded money from the fund to modernize their IT infrastructure are on the hook to pay back TMF within 5 years, unless they get a special exemption from the OMB director.
This time, “we understood that the reimbursement model would need to be relaxed” in order “to ensure the most immediate and effective investment of the $1 billion TMF appropriation,” wrote committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and fellow Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-Md.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Katie Porter (D-Calif.) and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.).
The text of the law, signed into law on March 11, doesn’t include a reimbursement requirement.
“Most drafts of the provision retained a reimbursement requirement for only a portion of the funding,” the lawmakers wrote. It was taken out in the budget reconciliation process used to pass the law, they said.
“Although that requirement could not be retained …. We strongly urge the administration not to let the reimbursement model atrophy during the expenditure of the investment made by the American Rescue Plan,” the legislators wrote.
At the same time, some industry representatives and former government employees have said the reimbursement requirements may actually discourage agencies from fully participating in the fund, since not all projects have easily quantifiable results. That sentiment was echoed by multiple current agency IT leaders in a not-for-attribution discussion FCW hosted on April 13. “It’s a loan, which has a lot of strings, so that’s not an option,” one participant said.
The group of lawmakers asked OMB, GSA and the TMF Board that oversees the fund to give Congress a plan on how the money will be prioritized and spent, as well as details on how the money will fall “at least partially” under reimbursement requirements.
They asked how the board will create timetables for repayment for certain projects that anticipate financial returns, and how it will go about “measuring the success” of proposals that don’t have easily quantifiable goals in terms of financial payback.
They also want to know what the board will use to gauge which applications receive funding, and how it will scale up to take in more applications than it used to.
The letter requested a briefing on the plan before May 7.
Natalie Alms is a staff writer at FCW covering the federal workforce. She is a recent graduate of Wake Forest University and has written for the Salisbury (N.C.) Post. Connect with Natalie on Twitter at @AlmsNatalie.