USDA, EEOC land first FY 2020 TMF awards

Public-facing systems at two agencies will get millions to help with the move to the cloud.

cloud costs
 

The Department of Agriculture and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will get a combined $12 million from the Technology Modernization Fund in its latest round of awards.

The Agriculture Department will get $8 million to overhaul an old paper-based inspection system, while the EEOC will get $4 million to speed up modernization of its Charge and Case Management System, according to an early morning Oct. 21 statement from the Office of Management and Budget.

The Modernizing Government Technology Act authorized $250 million for TMF in 2017. Since then $125 million has been appropriated for the fund. However, a Senate appropriations bill for FY 2020 zeros out TMF. It's unclear if any money has yet been repaid to the fund.

With the latest awards, the statement said, the TMF board has awarded over $100 million to nine modernization projects across government and continues to accept and evaluate other agency modernization proposals.

Both of the latest awards, said the OMB, had similar "key elements" that caught the board's eye. Both, it said, involved systems that had thousands of public-facing touchpoints across the country. Both looked to leverage innovative solutions to move ahead and both would use TMF funding to speed up delivery of citizen services, it said.

"As the first two projects approved in fiscal year 2020, the Board reinforces its commitment to leveraging the TMF as a catalyst to accelerate the transformation of antiquated technical and operational processes." said Federal CIO Suzette Kent in the OMB's statement.

TMF 101

December 2017: Modernizing Government Technology Act passes in defense bill.

February 2018: A user's guide to TMF.

May 2018: Why more agencies aren't chasing TMF money.

June 2018: First TMF awards announced.

February 2019: TMF gets $25 million boost in funding bill.

March 2019: Trump budget seeks $150 million in new TMF money.

September 2019: Senate bill zeros out TMF funding for 2020.

In remarks at ACT IAC's Executive Leadership Conference in Philadelphia on Oct. 21, Kent noted both projects looked to replace aging, paper-based systems that sometimes used triplicate paper carbon copy forms.

The award is the third for the Agriculture Department and the first for the EEOC. The tranche of announced funding announced on Oct. 21 is the first for fiscal 2020.

The Agriculture Department's latest $8 million round, according to the OMB statement, will be used to speed up moving its Agricultural Marketing Service's Specialty Crops Program to the cloud. The program is responsible for billing, inspection and certification paperwork for almost 100 billion pounds of fresh and processed produce for school lunch programs around the country, as well as 410 million servings of military combat rations. Currently, said OMB, the paperwork is actually paperwork, manual processes combined with old IT technology.

The EEOC will use its newly awarded $4 million to move its Charge and Case Management System to the cloud, away from older, costlier software and operation. The system tracks discrimination case applications filed by the public and is also the agency's public-facing portal to communicate with businesses and the public. Using the funding, according to OMB, the EEOC will be able to provide an "end-to-end digital process" for applicants and for its employees to follow the applications.

The Agriculture Department is a veteran in harnessing TMF funds. It used its first $10 million TMF funding award to help overhaul its Farmers.gov public-facing portal and another $5 million to optimize its cloud infrastructure. The agency's CIO has placed a premium on modernization efforts, particularly with public-facing systems and internal systems that hone day-to-day operations.

Anne Armstrong contributed reporting for this article.

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