Federal CIO, Tech Board Vote On How To Dole Out Modernization Funds


The Technology Modernization Fund Board held its first meeting this week, which included establishing a Statement of Principles.

The board created to manage a central fund to help agencies modernize aging IT systems pledged to do so in a fair, transparent manner—one of five establishing principles the Technology Modernization Fund Board agreed to in its first meeting.

Federal Chief Information Officer Suzette Kent met yesterday with top administration tech execs to look at the proposal process for the board that she now chairs and establish the guiding principles upon which the group will manage the multimillion-dollar central fund for agencies looking to jumpstart large-scale, critical IT modernization projects.

“It’s an honor to be with committed CIOs and technology leaders across federal agencies as we move our government into the 21st century,” Kent said in a tweet accompanied by a photo of the meeting.

The size of the fund isn’t a done a deal, as Congress has yet to appropriate any money toward it. Congress authorized up to $500 million for two years for the fund as part of the Modernizing Government Technology Act. The most recent budget proposal from President Donald Trump seeks $210 million for the fund in 2018.

At its first meeting, the board approved a Statement of Principles, five fundamentals that will guide the board’s work. (See the full breakdown in the embedded PDF below.)

  • Serve the best interest of the American public.
  • Abide by an open, transparent and fair process for evaluating project proposals.
  • Develop an agile project implementation process that supports the mission of the fund.
  • Promote the health, sustainability and utility of the fund.
  • Operate according to board rules and procedures.

The first and fifth principle, while noble, give little insight into how the fund will be managed. However, the other three give a glimpse into the board’s philosophy on administering the fund.

The second principle vows that the board will pick projects based on the strength of those projects and will be transparent about the process to avoid accusations of bias. Projects will be evaluated based on “strong technical and security” assessments from the board and an explicit business case from the agency requesting funds.

This principle also notes the board plans to look at new and ongoing projects for funding. Specifically, the document cites, “New projects or ideas that require funding to get off the ground; and ongoing projects that need an input of funds or technical expertise to improve project execution and drive stronger results.”

The third principle calls for agile development practices to be applied to the application process. The board plans to achieve this by instituting a two-step process in which agencies submit an initial application—based on board-created templates—then work with the board over time to flesh out the vision, business case and hard goals. The board will then follow up, providing technical expertise and guidance throughout the project lifecycle.

Finally, the fourth principle establishes the responsibility of the board to maintain the health of the fund, which is meant to be restored as agencies repay the borrowed funds through the cost-savings and avoidance of their modernization efforts.

The board plans to ensure the fund is sustainable by choosing a “diverse portfolio” of projects to run simultaneously, including “different stages of maturity, low- and high-risk opportunities and projects from different agencies.” This principle also calls on the board to continually review projects to make sure they are hitting milestones, as well as the board’s internal operations to find efficiencies.

All seven board members voted to approve the Statement of Principles, including Kent; Alan Thomas, commissioner of the Federal Acquisition Service within the General Services Administration; Mark Kneidinger, director of Federal Network Resilience at Homeland Security Department’s National Programs and Protection Directorate; Matt Cutts, acting administrator of the U.S. Digital Service, housed in the Office of Management and Budget; Rajive Mathur, CIO and deputy commissioner for systems at the Social Security Administration; Maria Roat, CIO at the Small Business Administration; and Charles Worthington, chief technology officer at Veterans Affairs.

Technology Modernization Board Statement of Principles by Aaron Boyd on Scribd