President Donald Trump’s budget request for fiscal 2018 calls for the creation of a technology modernization fund — a proposal that matches the concept at the heart of legislation pending on Capitol Hill.
The White House is calling for the General Services Administration to house a $228 million tech modernization fund — a small sliver of its total request of $95.7 billion for governmentwide IT spending next year.
The proposed fund is “designed to improve the management and oversight of Federal IT modernization projects” and would be “dedicated to transitioning Federal agencies from IT infrastructure, systems, and services that are not cost-effective or secure to more efficient and secure technologies,” the administration’s analysis of its request explains.
Trump’s budget document directly refers to Texas Republican Rep. Will Hurd’s Modernizing Government Technology Act, which calls for the creation of such a central modernization fund that agencies can tap into for modernization. Additionally, the bill would allow agencies to put money saved through IT efficiencies into working capital funds, which can be accessed for up to three years, to fund efforts to modernize their technology.
The Trump proposal falls slightly short of the $250 million that Hurd’s bill would authorize for fiscal 2018.
Hurd’s bill passed the House last week. An identical companion bill is awaiting movement in the Senate.
“I’ve worked hard to earn broad bipartisan support in the House, Senate and Administration and I am grateful for the widespread recognition of the need to modernize our government systems,” Hurd said in a statement emailed to FedScoop. “This portion of the budget recognizes those priorities, but like all President’s budgets, there are still many steps to go before this funding becomes a reality. I am cautiously optimistic that Congress will continue to prioritize the safety and security of our digital information and infrastructure, and am committed to championing the initiative throughout the budget and appropriations process.”
The idea gained traction last year as Hurd unsuccessfully tried to move the MGT bill and the Obama administration called for a similar fund in its budget request for fiscal 2017. That request, however, was significantly greater — $3.1 billion.
Looking for incentives
Trump’s budget request gives more detail on how the “self-sustaining” central fund would allocate money to “priority agency projects.”
“The fund is to be administered by GSA in accordance with an inter-agency project review board chaired by the Federal Chief Information Officer and comprised of experts in IT acquisition, cybersecurity, and agile development,” the budget proposal says. “The board will review agency modernization proposals and select projects for funding to ensure prioritization of projects with the greatest government-wide impact and probability of success.”
This competitive nature of the fund, the administration says, “will provide strong incentives for agencies to develop comprehensive, high quality modernization plans.”
Additionally, the board will oversee agencies’ use of the funding to ensure success, delivering money on an incremental basis as projects hit milestones.
The fund would then be replenished by repayments from agencies who borrowed funds and “fee-for service receipts from the development and operation of shared IT platforms.”
Outside of the fund, the administration wants agencies to generally do a better job budgeting for their continuous modernization. The president’s request requires that agencies “identify and budget for the modernization of specific high-risk legacy IT systems, with a particular focus on transitioning these systems to cloud and shared services.”