Trump Budget Request Seeks $150 Million for Tech Modernization Fund

Office of Management and Budget staff delivers President Donald Trump's 2020 budget outline to the House Budget Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 11.

Office of Management and Budget staff delivers President Donald Trump's 2020 budget outline to the House Budget Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 11. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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The president’s fiscal 2020 budget proposal asks for lots of IT spending in defense, border surveillance tech and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

President Trump’s fiscal 2020 budget request seeks $150 million in new funding for the Technology Modernization Fund, which provides seed money to governmentwide IT projects that agencies are ultimately expected to pay back.

So far, TMF has funded seven projects totaling close to $90 million of the total $125 million Congress authorized for the program.

The president’s request for more TMF funding is far from a certainty. Appropriations for TMF were only authorized through the 2018 and 2019 budgets through the Modernizing Government Technology Act. Additional funding in future appropriations bills would require a fresh authorization from Congress. 

Still, experts viewed the Trump administration’s budget request as a positive step. Mike Hettinger, founder of the Hettinger Strategy Group and former House Oversight staff director, told Nextgov the proposal may reignite the conversation in Congress of whether to reauthorize more money for TMF.

“With this, I think it’s important for Congress to consider a multiyear reauthorization of the TMF,” Hettinger said. “While Congress often appropriates without an authorization, in this case, I think we have a better chance of securing funding if the program is authorized.”

While the administration’s top line budget dropped Monday, White House officials said most agencies would not release their full budget requests until next week. However, there were other notable IT requests:

  • The Veterans Affairs Department would get $4.3 billion for “essential investments in IT,” including $200 million for cloud computing and an additional $1.6 billion for its electronic health records modernization.
  • The Transportation Department would receive $136 million for its data communication program and $127 million to integrate unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace.
  • The General Services Administration would get $25.9 million to “support the governmentwide management of IT reporting, including management of the Federal IT Dashboard, and to establish a new project management office for the governmentwide implementation of Technology Business Management principles.” The agency also would get $58.4 million for the Federal Citizen Services Fund “to support programs and activities that enhance cybersecurity and citizens’ ability to securely interact with federal agencies.”
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s budget request includes $1.2 billion for the development of “critical satellite systems,” such as polar weather satellites, space weather instruments and satellite collection systems.
  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology would receive $688 million for “cutting-edge research” in quantum computing, artificial intelligence and microelectronics.
  • The Homeland Security Department budget request flags $5 billion for border security, with $367 million of that allotment allocated for “aircraft, vessels, surveillance technology, and equipment to support the interdiction of illegal aliens, illicit drugs such as deadly fentanyl, and contraband across U.S. borders.”
  • The National Archives and Records Administration would receive $22 million to modernize the agency’s work processes and transition its paper records to electronic formats, “with the stated goal of ending NARA’s acceptance of paper records” by Dec. 31, 2022.
  • The Defense Department budget would allocate $59 billion in research, engineering and prototyping activities for new technologies, including autonomous systems, hypersonic missiles, artificial intelligence and directed energy.