By John K. Higgins
6/2/2021 4:18 PM PT
The US government is moving at a brisk pace to launch IT projects approved by the US $ 1.9 trillion rescue plan. Federal information technology providers are looking to participate in contracts made from the $ 1 billion provided in the government’s Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) plan.
The American rescue plan went into effect on March 11th. Just two months later, the White House informed federal agencies that project proposals to support the Technology Modernization Fund received by June 2 would be “prioritized”.
In addition to accelerating the application process and increasing TMF funding by a staggering six-fold, the administration gave authorities more flexibility in managing TMF projects to accelerate the federal government’s procurement of critical IT resources.
“The updated TMF model provides the clarity and flexibility needed to encourage federal agencies to prioritize technology modernization while transforming the relationship between the federal government and the public we serve.
“It’s more aggressive – to meet the federal government’s urgent technology needs today, and more ambitious – to anticipate the demands of tomorrow,” said Katy Kale, acting administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA), the TMF’s.
Technology fund essentially reissued
TMF was approved by the Modernizing Government Technology Act of 2017. The accumulated funds from the annual budget process to date have been $ 175 million. Needless to say, the $ 1 billion increase was a head-turner, and by changing the way it managed the project, the Biden government essentially restarted the TMF operation.
The original model for TMF projects required federal agencies to “repay” the fund from operational savings resulting from productivity gains from IT projects carried out with “borrowed” funds from TMF. The idea was to create a rolling repayment mechanism that is somewhat similar to a revolving fund process.
The President’s plan changed all that. “In order to be able to react urgently to the current crisis, the repayment is being shifted from the full repayment model for all projects to a model with more flexibility. The amortization is now divided into three categories in order to optimize project success and deliver the highest. “Value to the public,” according to GSA.
- Full repayment: For projects that enable direct financial savings that can be used to pay back the full TMF.
- Partial repayment: For projects with a strong positive impact and some financial savings where the proposing agency does not expect full cost recovery.
- Minimum repayment: For projects aimed at addressing the government’s most pressing IT issues, including critical cybersecurity improvements and initiatives to help authorities meet the needs of the Covid-19 pandemic, but which are unlikely to result in direct cost savings.
In addition, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) stressed that priority would be given to projects that “are cross-regulatory, address immediate security loopholes and improve public access to government services.”
Priority is given to four development categories: upgrading high priority systems; Cybersecurity improvements; publicly available digital services; intergovernmental services and infrastructure.
Aligning with intergovernmental projects and government-wide implementation is a positive approach, according to Dan Chenok, executive director of the IBM Center for the Business of Government, and Margie Graves, a visiting scholar at the center.
The Whole of Government Strategy “can help OMB, GSA and the agencies to work individually and collectively to ensure that innovative projects awarded under the TMF and related technology lines of the American rescue plan have a greater impact than what at the each project level, “they noted in a comment.
“Such a connection to the entire IT portfolio contributed to the success of the government’s Management Agenda (PMA) of 2001, of which elements such as shared services and e-government initiatives such as Benefits.gov, Grants.gov still exist and Regulations.gov.
“Conversely, innovations that are unrelated to longer-term strategies and priorities often do not last beyond the initial project period,” they said.
Contractors must closely monitor the agency’s IT
For IT vendors, TMF’s improved funding obviously offers procurement opportunities. However, the process of participating in TMF projects can be more difficult than the normal IT acquisition contract.
“From an industry perspective, the biggest challenge in the TMF process so far has been the lack of transparency and transparency about what government proposals might be considered for TMF funding,” said John Slye, consulting research analyst, federal markets at Deltek .
For example, GSA and the TMF board of directors do not pre-publish potential IT modernization projects. Under the current process, TMF projects will only be published on their website once these projects have been approved and funded. “The providers really have to be in sync with their partner agencies and have targeted discussions with them,” he told the E-Commerce Times.
Publishing excellent projects, while helpful, does not provide insight into potential projects or what agencies might be considering. “To understand government agencies’ future modernization plans, contractors need to research and study the needs of these agencies. Not an easy task, ”said Slye.
Regarding the overall goals of the initiative, “The biggest opportunities are first for cybersecurity know-how and solution providers, and for cloud service providers, the driving forces behind Biden’s proposal are the cyber attitudes of the authorities being the driving force are behind the Biden proposal, ”he remarked.
Nonetheless, providers of general IT products such as software that offer a higher level of security throughout their product development lifecycle can play an important role.
“Vendors don’t have to be a specific cybersecurity vendor to see opportunities if their solution drives an agency’s security goals,” he said. The other part of the administration’s approach has been to focus on improving government digital services for citizens while the pandemic continues. Vendors who can help agencies safely improve their services will find opportunities, Slye concluded.
Longer term funding support is still a problem
According to a joint comment from Steve Vetter, Senior Strategic Solutions Executive, and Emily Gotschalk, Marketing Specialist at Cisco Systems, the increase in funding for the TMF will help fill an investment gap in federal spending on upgrades and innovations.
They found that 82 percent of federal IT budgets are currently earmarked for operation and maintenance, while only 18 percent of funds are earmarked for development, modernization and expansion (DME). That’s a steep 32 percent drop for DME just a decade ago, they said, citing data from the government and the Professional Services Council (PSC).
“Driven by a holistic architectural approach, the TMF has the potential to become a critical tool to reverse the decline in capital funding,” they said.
The Professional Services Council itself, which represents a wide range of state contractors, including IT providers, sees the bailout plan as just the beginning of a more robust IT support program. PSC noted that TMF’s ARP funding was essentially a one-time, short-term effort to combat the effects of Covid-19.
PSC supported the ARP increase of the TMF. However, David Broome, PSC executive vice president of government relations, said the group was “disappointed that the government has not requested additional funding to address cybersecurity or IT modernization for the federal government and the industrial base,” all in one national proposal for infrastructure investment is discussed in Congress.
“Given the recent cyberattacks – including the violation of government infrastructure by Solar Winds and recent attacks on energy pipelines and water treatment plants – and the presidential cybersecurity executive order of 12. The changing threat landscape continues to mount,” Broome said in a letter to the Congress from 21.
PSC said it will support funding to meet these needs and requirements, including allocations to the federal agency for cybersecurity and infrastructure security (CISA) and the TMF, as well as agency-specific funding for modernization projects.