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The Era of Federal IT Modernization Is About to Finally Begin

The General Services Administration and Office of Management and Budget are gearing up to meet the demands of the Modernizing Government Technology Act.

The board is set, and the game is about to begin.

It took more than a year for the Modernizing Government Technology Act to be signed into law, and now agencies are setting about the task of making the law's title a reality.

While Congress must still appropriate funds for the centralized Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) that the law authorizes, agencies are still moving forward. Earlier this month, the Office of Management and Budget named the seven members of the TMF board that will advise OMB on agencies' IT modernization proposals. OMB also, in a Feb. 27 memo, issued guidance to agencies on the implementation of the law.

The General Services Administration says it is prepared to administer the fund once money is appropriated for it, but an official there says it will take more than just IT-focused staff members at the agency to help departments upgrade their technology.

All of the recent action and commentary suggest that the government is about to set the train in motion for agencies to upgrade their IT infrastructure and adopt more cloud-based and shared services, as the White House has pushed for.

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OMB Names TMF Board Members

Under the Modernizing Government Technology Act, the head of each agency can establish working capital funds for IT modernization (some agencies already do so). Agencies can transfer and reprogram funds, including for the operation and maintenance of legacy IT systems, and then use the money for a variety of projects.

The funds can be used to improve, retire or replace existing IT systems to enhance cybersecurity and to improve efficiency and effectiveness; transition legacy IT systems to cloud or shared services; adopt risk-based cybersecurity solutions; or to reimburse a central modernization fund the law sets up.

GSA will manage the centralized TMF. The law authorizes $250 million for the fund for fiscal year 2018 and the same amount for fiscal year 2019 (the Trump administration has requested $210 million for 2019). Agencies can apply to get money from the fund to modernize their IT and make it more efficient and secure.

On March 1, OMB announced the board that will advise on fund distribution. As FCW reports, the relatively new Federal CIO Suzette Kent will chair the board. The other members are Alan Thomas, commissioner of the Federal Acquisition Service at GSA; Mark Kneidinger, director of federal network resilience at the Homeland Security Department; Matt Cutts, acting administrator for the U.S. Digital Service; Social Security Administration CIO Rajive Mathur; Small Business Administration CIO Maria Roat; and Charles Worthington, CTO for the Veterans Affairs Department.

Agencies will compete for funding, and the board will evaluate and recommend funding the proposals that show the strongest case for delivering on agency mission objectives and achieving success, according to OMB. Agencies must reimburse the fund for any transfer of TMF money in accordance with the terms of a written agreement, which will document how the funds will be used and the terms of repayment. It may not exceed five years unless approved by OMB.

"Successful projects will demonstrate a strong execution strategy, technical approach and have a strong team with a demonstrated history of successful modernization efforts," OMB's memo states. "Agencies should, to the extent practicable, consider the adoption of commercial technology solutions in their proposals and provide a strong technical approach and acquisition strategy to implement those solutions."

GSA Gets Ready to Manage Modernization Fund

Bill Zielinski, deputy assistant commissioner for GSA's Office of Technology Category in the Federal Acquisition Service, said at an industry event last month that his agency will "be ready from day one" once the TMF funds are appropriated, FCW reports.

Speaking at an ACT-IAC meeting with industry officials, Zielinski said that it has become apparent inside the FAS that it will take more than the agency's technology acquisition team to help agencies upgrade their IT.

Rather, he said, "it takes a village to really solve some of these problems," related to IT modernization, FedScoop reports.

As agencies deal with uncertain budgets, talent shortfalls and a large push toward federal IT modernization, Zielinski said agencies must understand the changing nature of technology and the interdependence of GSA's acquisition teams.

"I think what we are already seeing, and what I think we are going to see more, is the nature of how agencies buy and consume and stand up technical capabilities," he told FedScoop. "It's less and less about the idea that I'm going to buy a series of component parts and that I am going to cobble them together myself. It's this idea that in the as-a-service world that we are firmly in, I want to stand up a capability."

That process may involve bringing in professional services expertise to help agencies manage the outcomes they want and not the underlying technologies.

General Services Administration
Mar 13 2018