The value that agencies can get out of applying for a project loan via the Technology Modernization Fund goes beyond the money, says Department of Energy CIO Max Everett.
Speaking on a panel at FedTalks 2018, Everett had nothing but positive things to say about the initiative. Of course, his agency was one of the first to be awarded money from the $100 million pot — Energy got $15 million in support of its email cloud migration project. But this isn’t the only reason Everett praised TMF.
“I like to encourage my fellow departments to be a part of the TMF process,” he said. “The reality is — this is the way we should be managing IT across the government. Just the cultural change of going through this process is enormously helpful.”
The TMF is a central IT modernization fund set up by the passage of the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act. Agencies can apply for a loan from the fund — with repayment due within five years — to get extra cash for a modernization project. The fund is overseen by a seven-member board that operates within the Office of Management and Budget.
“The process [of applying for the TMF] actually was incredibly collaborative with [the General Services Administration] and OMB,” Everett said. “Their folks literally could not have been more encouraging and helpful to my team as we put that process together. And I don’t always say that about OMB.”
In June the TMF board announced it had given out a total of $45 million in its first three loans — to Energy, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Agriculture. Many other agencies are eligible.
“I think some of [the other agencies] feel like the process looks like this: They bring you in a dark room with bright lights in your eyes and Maria and the board grill you,” Everett continued, referring to TMF board member and Small Business Administration CIO Maria Roat. “And that’s not what the process looks like.”
“I thought we did,” Roat, another panelist, interjected.
“Well you grilled me a little bit,” Everett conceded.
GSA and OMB have been actively encouraging other agencies to apply for the remaining $55 million that’s earmarked for fiscal year 2018. The TMF board has released its justifications for the granted awards, hoping this will help agencies understand how to position a successful application, and GSA held at least one webinar on how to apply.
Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, some senators have threatened fiscal 2019 funding for the TMF over a dearth of “results.”
“I’ve threatened this before, but if other agencies aren’t going to go after the rest of that money — I am,” Everett said.