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Striking IT Modernization Gold With the MGT Act

Government agencies hungry for federal IT modernization funding can turn to last year’s Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act.

The MGT Act created the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF), which offers agencies major project dollars with a catch – all the money must be repaid.

The TMF boasts $100 million for modernization initiatives in fiscal 2018, and the president’s fiscal 2019 budget seeks another $210 million. Agencies making a play for TMF cash must successfully pitch their project to seven people serving on the Technology Modernization Board.

Alternate Board member Margie Graves said during FedScoop’s recent FedTalks event in Washington, D.C. that organizations must articulate a clear route to repayment before securing any funds.

“It’s talent, it’s technology, it’s approach, it’s government impact, it’s the plan for going forward and being able to repay [the funds],” said Graves, Deputy U.S. CIO, Executive Office of the President. “There’s got to be a solid ROI with a plan behind it. It includes having the right talent to execute.”

Maria Roat – a term Board member and the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) CIO – said that agencies should focus on explaining new projects over rehashing their purposes.

“Don’t tell us what your mission is,” she said. “We already know who you are. Get to the point and tell us what you want to do.”

Roat added that applicants should also consider how they can build the framework for a project’s success or fund it incrementally.

“We’re looking for some of the groundwork to be done,” she said. “Ask for [the money] in pieces. How are you going to pay that back over time? Did you reach out to your CIO counterparts at other agencies and learn what they’re doing?”

Energy Department (DOE) CIO Max Everett said that his agency repeatedly revised their TMF proposal before presenting it before the board. The effort was a successful one, and DOE was awarded $15 million in June 2018 for its enterprise cloud email migration acceleration effort.

“We thought about having the end in mind from the beginning in terms of cost,” he said. “We went through seven or eight iterations of what we were going to present to the board. We were confident about what we could execute on.”

Everett added that DOE mapped out chapters for accomplishing the proposal, noting that the public sector influenced the overall process.

“We also went back out and evaluated [the proposal] with industry,” he said. “It was breaking it up into pieces, into segments where you actually understand how you get there.”

Graves additionally recommended that agencies treat their data as a strategic asset during any TMF proposal.

“One of the things we do look for when we’re looking for these modernization projects is that you understand data sets and that you architect your data structures, so it’s more easily shared,” she said. “We are sitting on a gold mine in terms of what we have available.”

Roat said she hoped the TMF application process taught agencies to collaborate more often on projects benefiting citizens.

“There’s touch points across federal agencies and they’re going to have to actually work together,” she said. “It’s going to make it so much more efficient. And that will help the public, who it is we’re actually serving.”

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