The General Services Administration headquarters building in Washington, D.C.

May 15 2020

GSA, Labor EEOC Lay the Foundation for Major Tech Upgrades

Various agencies are using Technology Modernization Fund money to modernize systems or create new ones.

The General Services Administration, Labor Department and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are at the forefront of modernizing technology systems across the government. 

The 2018 Modernizing Government Technology Act established a Technology Modernization Fund to fund agency requests for IT modernization projects. GSA, Labor and EEOC are among the recipients of funds from the TMF and are pushing ahead with their proposed upgrades, though there have been some delays. 

As FedTech reports, the TMF “essentially serves as a loan fund, with the expectation that the improvements will save money that agencies can use to pay back the government over a designated period of time. It allows agencies to replace and update old legacy systems that are expensive to maintain but require significant investment to improve.”

“The projects are on track, we actually got some of our first money back, which is a great thing,” Federal CIO Suzette Kent tells Federal News Network in an interview last fall. “Each of them has a spend plan. That is something that we share with Congress. So you know when money goes out and when we expect money to come back in and what that looks like.”

READ MORE: See how agencies are using TMF funding to modernize. 

GSA Modernizes Payroll System and Apps

In February 2019, the TMF board awarded the GSA $20.7 million to accelerate development of its modernized payroll shared service, NewPay.

As a December Government Accountability office report describes, the project is “intended to modernize the agency’s payroll system and replace it with a cloud-based Software as a Service solution. This is expected to lay the foundation for modernizing federal legacy payroll systems to a cloud-based solution for the federal government by September 2024.”

NewPay is expected to cover 21,000 users at the GSA and serve as the basis for upgrading the payroll systems for 2.1 million federal civilian employees, the GAO notes. Currently, four federal agencies (the departments of Agriculture, Defense and the Interior, plus GSA) serve as payroll providers for federal civilian employees. NewPay is also expected to encompass time and attendance solutions, which GSA expects to put in place in later project phases. 

Project officials reported to the GAO that they originally planned to complete the migration to NewPay and shut down GSA’s legacy systems by 2023 and consolidate all other government legacy provider payroll operations into NewPay. 

However, “officials reported that the strategy for transitioning other legacy payroll providers to NewPay was revised in mid-summer 2019,” the GAO notes. 

Moving forward, GSA and the other federal payroll providers plan to “focus on completing the migration of all systems to NewPay prior to transitioning and consolidating payroll operations within GSA,” the GAO report states. 

GSA is working with the Office of Management and Budget and the other agency payroll providers to identify funding available for these efforts so that a new schedule can be developed. 

Meanwhile, in October 2019, the GSA was awarded $15 million to modernize 11 applications that are currently using proprietary vendor technology. The plan is to convert them to use open-source technologies, the GAO report notes. 

“GSA currently has 88 applications that are in need of modernization and intends to use the lessons learned and new capabilities as a repeatable process that will be used for future migrations of other proprietary applications to open source technologies,” the report notes. 

The GSA intends to repay the TMF funds via both its existing working capital fund and “the planned cost savings and avoidances accrued from reducing operations and maintenance costs, and eliminating hardware and operating system software costs for these proprietary applications.” In fiscal year 2018, the agency reported spending approximately $23.9 million to cover these costs.

MORE FROM FEDTECH: See how agencies can leave legacy IT systems behind. 

 Digitized Certifications Come to Labor Department

The Labor Department’s Visa Application Transformation project, for which the agency received $3.5 million in October 2018, is designed to replace a paper-based labor certification process for certain types of work visas with an e-certification process. 

“The new system is intended to enable the department to issue a labor certification securely and electronically to employer applicants, similar to an electronic boarding pass issued by airlines,” the GAO report states. “In addition, this project is expected to streamline and improve data accessibility and reporting capabilities by creating a data hub at Labor.” 

This hub is expected to allow Labor to securely transmit the labor certifications and other necessary documentation to the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, with an eventual linkage to the Agriculture and State departments.

Labor Department CIO Gundeep Ahluwalia tells Federal News Network that the TMF funding is just one funding stream for the agency’s IT modernization plans.

“Now we have electronic labor certifications being issued out of the Department of Labor that go to the employer like a boarding pass arrives. We have eliminated all of that cost,” he says. “All of that came out of the rendition of that plumbing called the platform that we created. The Bureau of Labor Statistics wanted to do a mobile app and we said, ‘OK.’” 

The technology platform the department is using is making the upgrades possible. 

The Labor Department intends to repay the TMF funds “by using the planned cost savings accrued from eliminating the costs of procuring security paper and printers for printing the certifications as well as reduced costs for contractor and federal employee support of the paper process.” In fiscal 2019, the department reported spending approximately $1.9 million on these costs for the paper-based process.

VIDEO: Federal CIO Suzette Kent explains the government’s IT innovation agenda.

Modernized Case Management System at EEOC

In October 2019, the EEOC received $4 million in TMF funding for a case management system modernization project. 

“Currently, EEOC’s charge and case management program is running on an outdated and slow backbone system that relies heavily on costly proprietary technologies and requires the use of precise alphanumeric codes, rather than plain language, to record case information for the more than 200,000 inquiries reviewed by the agency each year,” the TMF website notes

The new system the EEOC is moving toward is expected to be faster, provide for a more efficient review of cases and reduce the costs of operating the system. 

“EEOC anticipates it will have a greater ability to serve its mission by improving the basic functionality of its core charge and case management system, which will not only make EEOC’s private and public sector operations more efficient but also benefit the Fair Employment Practice Agencies that rely on EEOC’s system to manage their cases,” the TMF website states. 

Applicants and employees seeking assistance from the EEOC “will be able to take advantage of end-to-end digital processing of their charges,” the website states. 

Without the TMF funding, the EEOC would need to complete this project over a period of five years, but the agency expects the project can be conducted in fiscal 2020 and 2021 as a single effort to replace the legacy system. 

“By the end of this project, EEOC will have a modern, cloud-based core charge and case management system that will modernize both the underlying technology and achieve operational efficiencies that will decrease its current software licensing expenses and reduce other existing development and maintenance expenditures,” the TMF website notes.

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