House panel trims Biden's TMF ambitions

A funding bill passed out of committee on Thursday pegs $50 million for the Technology Modernization Fund – far less than the $500 million sought by the Biden administration.

US Congress House side Shutterstock photo ID: 156615524 By mdgn editorial use only

One again, appropriators are tapping the brakes on ambitious executive branch plans to expand the Technology Modernization Fund.

The Biden administration sought a $500 million boost for the TMF in its fiscal year 2022 budget. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government approved a $29.1 funding bill that covers Treasury, White House operations, the General Services Administration and more that includes a $50 million plus-up for the fund.

Appropriators have a history of being suspicious of the revolving fund. Under the Trump administration, the executive branch regularly sought $100 million increases and more for the fund but only received about $25 million per year.

The TMF recently underwent a massive expansion thanks to $1 billion in new funding under the American Rescue Plan Act. The fund, which is managed by the Office of Management and Budget and GSA, is seeing an uptick in interest and project submissions from agencies eager to tap into the new funding, and it's expanding its capacity to handle the increase in scale.

"While $50 million is still far too low for the TMF, it is a higher floor than Congress has provided in the previous few appropriations bills," Matthew Cornelius, executive director of the Alliance for Digital Innovation and a former OMB official, told FCW. "If anything, I hope this number encourages OMB and GSA to communicate sooner and more forthrightly about the total number and cumulative dollar amounts of TMF proposals they have received under their new guidance. Nothing prohibits them from being more transparent about TMF demand, and that information has the chance to sway appropriators as they continue through the FY2022 markup calendar."

The bill also provides $372 million in funding for the Office of Personnel Management, an increase of $42 million over 2021 funding. That includes a request for a working capital fund to support IT modernization. That pot of no-year money at OPM is capped at $8.84 million and allows $1 million of that to cover "strengthening the capacity and capabilities of the acquisition workforce" at the agency.

The bill includes $15 million to establish the Office of the National Cyber Director at the White House. Chris Inglis, formerly deputy director of the National Security Agency, was recently confirmed by the Senate to take on that newly established position.

Cybersecurity is getting a lot of attention at Treasury. The bill directs $132 million for the agency's cybersecurity enhancement account – more than a six-fold increase over the $14 million allotted in 2021.

IRS modernization is also getting a boost. The bill allocates $305 million for modernizing legacy systems at the tax agency – up $82 million from 2021.

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