This week marks a significant milestone for the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF)— the five-year anniversary. The TMF, an innovative funding model for federal technology modernization projects, has grown and expanded significantly since its humble beginnings. Established in 2018, the TMF has played a critical role in delivering on administration and agency priorities and has grown accordingly. Currently the TMF manages nearly $700 million for 38 investments across 22 federal agencies, and has received and reviewed more than 220 agency proposals.
The TMF’s innovative funding model is game-changing in the way that it offers agencies repayment flexibility outside of the traditional budget cycle to tackle urgent IT projects to not only modernize our government and bolster cybersecurity defenses, but advance the administration’s priority of delivering excellent, equitable, and secure federal services and customer experience— outlined in both the President’s Management Agenda and the executive order on improving customer experience. This unique funding vehicle has enabled agencies to respond in real-time to critical needs, show their customers that they can deliver modern products and services, and through rigorous oversight by the TMF board—remain accountable and transparent to taxpayers.
Who we’re helping
With the administration’s aggressive approach to securing and modernizing our IT, the TMF has become an integral tool in delivering a government that meets today’s expectations. As a result, agencies are on a path to digital modernization that is bringing significant, measurable impacts to the public, including:
Veterans and their families who will be able to access digital service records through the National Archives and Records Administration, and by using a secure single sign-in experience to access services and benefits at the Department of Veterans Affairs so they can take care of business and move on with their day;
Farmers and consumers by improving the speed and safety of the Department of Agriculture’s inspection of produce to safeguard the food supply, allowing for expedited inspection of billions of pounds of food a year, and improving the quality of school lunches and military MRE (Meals Ready-to-Eat);
Retirement and disability beneficiaries and their families by securing systems that protect personal information at the Social Security Administration, providing virtual, telephone and in-office support to hundreds of thousands of customers daily;
Taxpayersand the trade community by modernizing the payment processing system for the Customs and Border Protection, the nation’s second largest revenue-collecting agency, improving customs enforcement, revenue collections and trade protections;
Journalists and their sources stationed in high-risk areas around the world by safeguarding the integrity of the U.S. Agency for Global Media’s news content, protecting the lives of the people providing accurate, objective, comprehensive news and information to overseas audiences;
Citizens and businesses by scaling the Login.gov shared service, expanding identity verification coverage and ensuring the privacy and protection of user data, making it more seamless and secure for people to interact with multiple, participating government agencies; and
Federal employees and job seekers by modernizing the OPM.gov website, improving the government’s ability to recruit job seekers, supply the federal workforce with relevant career information, and make it easier for public servants to manage their benefits.
What we’ve learned over the past 5 years
Project success increases when proposals are assessed by technical experts and funded incrementally. When the federal government has spent billions of dollars on failed and poorly performing IT investments, it’s imperative for us and our technical experts to constantly evaluate our approaches and course-correct as necessary to improve project success and maximize taxpayer dollars. Using an incremental investment approach ties funding to delivery of project milestones, so that agencies are held accountable and are given support where necessary.
We are identifying where we can do the most good for the most people. Traditional technology investments often occur within silos, resulting in duplication, inefficiency, and diminished innovation. The TMF board leverages its birds-eye view to identify where an agency is on its IT modernization journey and prioritizes investments that will have the greatest likelihood of success. The board’s investment strategy takes the larger IT narrative into account, allowing the TMF to:
Develop playbooks and cultivate communities of action to help other federal agencies facing similar challenges share best practices throughout the federal community;
Identify possibilities for new shared services based on an enterprise view of agency needs; and
Conduct enhanced readiness assessments in the evaluation process to ensure agencies are equipped for success, including meeting with agency teams to see their adoption of technology best practices.
Where we’re headed
This is just the beginning. Since its creation five years ago, it’s safe to say that the TMF works and it works well. The TMF was a vital part of the administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to play an essential role in tackling government challenges in real time. The President requested $200 million for the TMF in the fiscal 2024 budget because he knows how important it is to agencies for delivery of mission-critical services. Through strategic selection of project proposals, agile project implementation and robust oversight from the TMF board, we’re going to continue to serve as good stewards of taxpayer dollars and transform the way we use technology to deliver for the American people.
Clare Martorana is the federal chief information officer and chairwoman of the TMF Board. Raylene Yung is the executive director of the Technology Modernization Fund.