TMF reboot looks to stabilize funding, increase transparency

Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., is trailed by reporters on Capitol Hill on April 26, 2023. Mace is lead sponsor of a rewrite of a key IT modernization bill.

Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., is trailed by reporters on Capitol Hill on April 26, 2023. Mace is lead sponsor of a rewrite of a key IT modernization bill. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

The reauthorization of the Modernizing Government Technology Act is due for a committee markup on Wednesday.

A reboot of the Modernizing Government Technology Act — the bill that established the Technology Modernization Fund in late 2017 — will be marked up at a Wednesday meeting of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability.

The reauthorization of the MGT legislation includes provisions that give agencies new flexibility to pay back awards from the fund. The bill also requires the TMF program management office to publish award agreements that include details on the level of cost recovery.

"We feel confident that this is a measured and balanced bill that achieves the necessary reports to keep the revolving fund sustainable and solvent," a committee aide told Nextgov/FCW.

Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., who chairs the Cybersecurity, Information Technology and Government Innovation subcommittee, is sponsoring the legislation along with ranking member Gerry Connolly, D-Va.

Mace said at a May hearing that the fund is "a tool that needs sharpening."

While the ‘Modernizing Government Technology Reform Act of 2023 doesn't include cost recovery requirements for individual projects, it does mandate that the TMF program managers make sure the overall fund remains solvent and usable for its lifetime — which is extended to Dec. 31, 2030 under the rewrite.

"Not every project will be cost recoverable," the aide said, "but agencies can use other appropriated funds to repay TMF." For example, cybersecurity projects don't have the before-and-after savings figures that might be associated with a shift from on-premise to cloud email. But agencies will have the ability to repay TMF awards out of their own IT revolving funds.

Appropriators on both sides of the aisle have had long-standing concerns about the repayment structure of TMF. This budget year, the Republican-controlled House and the Democrat-controlled Senate each zeroed out the TMF in appropriations bills.

A Senate report from this year said the Appropriations Committee "supports the goals of the TMF but believes the fund should require full reimbursement over time from funded agencies as envisioned in the Modernizing Government Technology Act of 2017 … so that the fund can be self-sustaining."

The fund is subsisting largely on a $1 billion plus-up included in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The General Services Administration, which manages the fund, sought $200 million in new funding for fiscal 2024 in its budget request.

The bill also includes a new requirement that the federal chief information officer compile a list of federal agency legacy IT inventory, prioritizing the 10 most high-risk legacy systems. The committee aide said that this doesn't mean that TMF is going to tilt at major, multiyear, multibillion dollar IT upgrades at federal agencies.. But the TMF could support "solving components of bigger problems" or tackling "smaller agile pieces" of greater modernization goals.

Additionally, the bill makes the senior official from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency a permanent member of the TMF board. Currently the CISA rep is part of a rotating cast of board members tasked with reviewing and approving TMF applications.

"This reauthorization bill is a welcome demonstration of support for the MGT Act and the Technology Modernization Fund," Connolly told Nextgov/FCW in an emailed statement. "It follows the critical $1 billion appropriation Congress provided the TMF as part of the American Rescue Plan, which I was proud to fight for."

This article was updated Sept. 19, 2023 with a link to the Modernizing Government Technology Reform Act of 2023.