Though fiscal year 2019 appropriations for the Technology Modernization Fund are not a guarantee, the board that manages the funds intends to keep moving forward with its planned awards, according to Alan Thomas, commissioner for the Federal Acquisition Service and Technology Modernization Board member.

“We have not had a single discussion at the board meeting about, ‘Hey, what about the next tranche of money?’” said Thomas at a Sept. 13 Association for Federal Information Resource Management event.

“There’s a pipeline of existing projects that we’ve been looking at. You’ll be hearing about some decisions soon. We did not take into account whether we were going to get another tranche of money in there. One of the key things that we’re looking at for projects is the ability to pay back, so there’s a revolving fund.”

The TMF was originally awarded $100 million in FY18 appropriations, less than half of the $250 million that the original legislation establishing the fund called for.

And while House appropriations attempted to make up that difference with $150 million for FY19, members of the Senate said that they were unwilling to allocate more money until the fund had shown some results. That’s a tall order for a program that awarded its first grants only in June 2018.

According to Elizabeth Cain, acting executive director of the Technology Modernization Fund Program Management Office at the General Services Administration, the first TMF funding transfers to agency accounts only occurred within the last month and a half.

“It’s just a tad premature to talk about [return on investment], because we literally just funded three projects that are about half the fund. We have another set of projects that we’re getting ready to fund, and some things in the pipeline,” said Thomas.

“So I think those kinds of metrics, like ROI, you’ll start to see over the next 12 months. Let’s see how those projects perform.”

The board initially awarded $45 million to the Departments of Energy, Housing and Urban Development, and Agriculture, leaving just over half for future projects.

And though the funding is designed to be repaid as agencies reap the benefits of newly modernized IT, agencies that received the first awards aren’t scheduled to fully pay back the funding for five years.

According to Maria Roat, chief information officer for the Small Business Administration and TMB member, the second round of proposals has proven more mature than the first, largely because agencies have learned from the first round how to better put together proposal documents and pitches to the TMB.

Still, some agencies have requested large sums of money for upcoming projects, that would wipe out the fund in one fell swoop.

“We did have one that came in for a big chunk of change, and we went back to them and said, ‘We’re going to fund up to this. You show us that you met this and then we’ll give you the next tranche,'” said Roat.

She added that some proposals are also sent back to agencies, because they can be funded with existing appropriations within that agency.

Congress is scheduled to vote Sept. 13 on a general government appropriations bill that could or could not include additional funding for TMF.

Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.

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