One of the most impactful days in federal IT during the past 12 months has to be Dec. 12, 2017 — the day President Trump signed the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act into law as an amendment to the wider 2018 National Defense Authorization Act.

The President’s signature marked the culmination of a process to revitalize aging IT systems in federal agencies that began in 2016 with the compromise amalgamation of two previous bills: Republican Will Hurd’s Modernizing Outdated and Vulnerable Equipment and Information Technology (MOVE IT) Act and Democrat Steny Hoyer’s Information Technology Modernization Act.

Under MGT, Congress has authorized $100 million for fiscal year 2018 to both modernize existing IT systems and undertake new initiatives. An additional $150 million in funding may be earmarked next year for the same purpose. On Feb. 27, 2018 Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mark Mulvaney issued a memorandum providing guidance to agency leaders regarding the criteria by which funds would be issued and marking the beginning of the process by which funding requests would be reviewed.

If you’re considering applying, there are a few things to keep in mind:

Proposals for MGT funds are reviewed by a seven-person board led by current US CIO Suzette Kent and are currently being accepted.

Those interested should use Appendix A of the guidelines here to submit a proposal of no more than two pages in 10-point font as a .docx file to ofcio@omb.eop.gov.

Fund director Liz Cain has stated that “proposals requesting $2 million to $10 million hit ‘the sweet spot’ for approval, and the board is particularly interested in projects that show results within the first year.”

On June 8 it was reported that three of the first grants were awarded, two of which dealt with workload migration. Specifically, $20 million went to the Department of Housing and Urban Development to assist with mainframe application migration and $15 million went to the Department of Energy for the purpose of enterprise cloud email migration acceleration. These awards are not surprising as cloud adoption has been a priority for the office of US CIO for many years, yet agencies still lag behind their private sector counterparts in moving workloads to the cloud.

It’s worth asking whether your agency is maintaining extensive workloads on premise. While there may be legal or regulatory reasons for doing so in cases of personally identifiable information, that isn’t likely to describe the vast majority of your data. If you think it would be of value, agency leaders should seriously consider submitting a proposal to support the migration of at least some of your workloads to a public cloud provider like Microsoft Azure, AWS or Google. Doing so is likely to substantially reduce costs in the long term.

  • Director Mulvaney’s memo also specifically states that successful projects “will have a demonstrable and visible impact to the public, in alignment with the agency’s mission.” In other words, MBT offers an opportunity to invest in new digital initiatives in self-service and an omnichannel experience that have the potential to reduce costs while simultaneously improving employee and citizen satisfaction. Case in point is the award of $10 million to USDA for its Farmers.gov customer experience portal.

Unfortunately, many existing agency portals lack the kind of personalization that would be standard in the private sector, such as serving up content based on previous user history. Likewise, data tends to become siloed so that users are forced to enter the same information multiple times — a tedious experience for anyone. New digital initiatives leveraging MBT funds have the potential to implement solutions that empower public sector professionals while improving their agency’s image in the eyes of the public.

With the exception of your time — which is of course valuable — there is no cost to submitting a proposal for modernization funds. If you’ve ever thought of a project that would save your agency money or improve citizen service, there’s never been a better time to make that a reality.

Brett Swartz, is director of public sector at Liferay.