9 projects, 7 agencies and 4 finalists for extra IT modernization funding

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The Technology Modernization Fund Board has $100 million in the bank, and so far, it’s not burning a hole in its collective pockets.

Four out of nine projects will move to the second phase of the proposal process, the Office of Management and Budget said Sunday.

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“These agency proposals were selected because of the alignment to criteria, impact, strength of business case, and probability of success. Selected projects teams have been invited to present their proposal for further funding consideration,” said an OMB spokesman in an email. “The large volume of proposals has signified a high interest for technology modernization across government and agencies are strongly encouraged to continue submitting their projects.”

Federal Chief Information Officer Suzette Kent made the announcement of the board moving forward with the four proposals on the Government Matters show on Sunday.

Federal News Radio has learned that seven agencies submitted those nine proposals. Sources say the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, State and Veterans Affairs as well as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are vying for the first allocation of the $100 million.

Sources say the reason only four proposals made it to the second round was many were missing key components of the requirements OMB laid out in the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act memo in February.

Sources couldn’t confirm which agency proposals were among the four finalists.

An OMB spokesman would not confirm any of the agencies that submitted proposals for funding.

It was a busy week for the TMF.

First, the General Services Administration announced Elizabeth Cain will be the executive director for the Technology Modernization Fund.

Cain comes to the role after serving as a financial management analyst in GSA’s Office of the Chief Financial Officer. She has worked at GSA since 2009

In her new role, Cain will help coordinate the technical reviews of agency proposals as well as their fiscal and business reviews to make sure the projects can provide the required return on investment and repay the fund so it can continue the cycle of reinvesting.

Later in the week, both OMB Director Mick Mulvaney and GSA Administrator Emily Murphy testified before congressional committees on separate occasions and told lawmakers about their optimism for the extra money.

“Thank you for the Technology Modernization Fund. You all put a bunch of money in there, and we really appreciate that,” Mulvaney told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government on April 18. “This is, I think, a very innovative program where we have a group of folks from all over the executive branch who get together, and essentially we have a competitive process with programs that we think might actually work, and we’ll spend money on those to try and update our IT. I encourage you folks to continue your oversight of that. We’d be happy to share information with you. We think it’s one of the most innovative programs that we have come up with together, the administration and the Congress, and we look forward to keeping you all abreast of the progress there.”

Earlier in the week, Murphy told the same committee that the TMF funding for this year and next — a total of $310 million — would set the government started down the right path.

“The board is meeting once a week now and is reviewing all of the plans that agencies have submitted for ways that they can address technology modernization requirements. Specifically, they’re looking at technology that can be leveraged across agencies so it’s not just a one-time fix, it’s something that we get long-term return out of,” Murphy said. “We’re looking for identify. It’s not a new issue. It’s got to be an identifiable issue that we can really address and we are working very hard with them to establish that criteria.”

Murphy said these initial projects under the TMF would be “proof of concepts” to show how this process would work. This is the same line of thinking the Trump administration offered as part of its fiscal 2018 budget request when it asked for $228 million for the central fund.

“It’s a revolving fund. It allows us to go and make targeted investments. We get the return on those dollars, reinvest them into the next set of projects and how this is a continual improvement process,” Murphy said. “It also should highlight areas where we can get, you know, demonstrable savings and then agencies can themselves come back and ask for additional appropriations as necessary.”

The OMB spokesman said just because this initial group of four is going to the second round, the opportunity for agencies to request extra IT modernization funding is just starting.

“There is still time for agencies to submit proposals and are strongly encouraged to do so,” the spokesman said.

Neither OMB nor GSA discussed the timing for the TMF Board to make final funding decisions for these four projects.

But given the priority around modernization and goal to start proving to lawmakers the value of the central fund, the sooner OMB can get the money out the door the better for everyone involved.

Read more of the Reporter’s Notebook.