Dems want $9B TMF boost in legislation

President Biden included the massive uptick in the Technology Modernization Fund in his $1.9 trillion pandemic relief and recovery proposal, and key lawmakers on the House Oversight Committee are pushing to include the measure in legislation.

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Leading Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform are pushing $9 billion in technology refresh money as part of the larger $1.9 trillion pandemic relief and recovery package being pushed by the Biden administration.

In a Jan. 27 letter led by Oversight Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Government Operations Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), lawmakers stressed the importance of expanding the Technology Modernization Fund – a pot of no-year money that agencies can tap for projects to improve service delivery, to move systems to the cloud and other efforts to cast off expensive and creaky legacy systems.

"The federal government's consistent failure to prioritize IT modernization and program delivery prevented the public from receiving the federal assistance Congress authorized to help the nation stay afloat during one of the worst global pandemics and economic crises of our lifetime," the lawmakers wrote. "Without modern and nimble IT systems, the federal government cannot deliver critical payments and services to individuals, families, and businesses who rely on them."

The letter notes that the TMF, which launched with $100 million in funding in fiscal year 2018 and was subsequently refreshed with $50 million in new appropriations, wasn't sufficient to meet demand even before the pandemic. The letter states that agencies have made proposals totaling more than $500 million. "Existing funding currently fails to meet the needs of federal agencies," the lawmakers wrote, characterizing the $9 billion funding boost as "revolutionary."

The bill that launched the TMF, the Modernizing Government Technology Act, originated in the House Oversight Committee, and Connolly was an original co-sponsor. Initially, some members sought a $3 billion fund, but that was dramatically scaled back before the bill found Republican co-sponsorship and could pass in Congress.

Some appropriators have been leery of the no-year pot of money, and have sought to block new money in past budget cycles. Additionally, the Government Accountability Office published a report that recommended fund managers at the General Services Administration and the Office of Management and Budget clarify administrative cost recovery plans.