A group of Democratic senators is the latest to urge the administrators of the Technology Modernization Fund to increase staffing levels, adjust project selection criteria and reconsider repayment terms for agencies.
In a letter sent to the Office of Management and Budget, General Services Administration, and TMF Board, the lawmakers encourage the organizations to use the “flexibility” of the Modernizing Government Technology Act to quickly replace outdated systems and improve cybersecurity.
Congress appropriated $1 billion to the TMF in the American Rescue Plan Act passed in March, but the tech industry soon raised concerns the project approval process would need to be streamlined to meet the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is widely acknowledged that our federal government needs to make significant and urgent investments in replacing outdated and insecure legacy IT systems,” reads the letter, sent by Sens. Mark Warner, Va., Chris Van Hollen, Md., and Gary Peters, Mich. “Over the past year of the pandemic however, in which we’ve seen more than 565,000 deaths in the U.S. and devastating degrees of economic hardship, added demands have at times overwhelmed our government’s ability to continue providing effective customer service and critical benefits to Americans.”
The Pandemic Response Accountability Committee reported IT infrastructure is a “top challenge” in February, given the government’s increased reliance on telework and the subsequent broadening of agencies’ cyberattack surfaces. Services like the processing of pandemic relief applications have suffered as a result.
TMF Board cyber, financial management and acquisition experts can “rapidly” evaluate TMF project proposals by bolstering their ranks and prioritizing the most critical, cost-saving ones, according to the letter.
The reimbursement requirement of agencies may also need to be reduced or discarded in the short term.
“We encourage you to take steps to ensure that agencies are able to rapidly and effectively respond to pressing needs, including by significantly adjusting or removing reimbursement requirements for portions of the funding,” reads the letter. “We continue to believe that repayment of funds to the TMF helps ensure its long-term viability, but the magnitude of the current challenges presents an urgent need.”
The lawmakers stressed the need for “clear and transparent guidance” from OMB, GSA and the TMF Board on selection criteria and repayment for the benefit of agencies and Congress.
The TMF Board has awarded more than $125 million to 11 modernization projects to date addressing program operability and cybersecurity.