The Department of Transportation (DoT) has received its first-ever Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) award worth $6.43 million to use in helping to upgrade tech at the agency’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) component, according to DoT Chief Information Officer (CIO) Cordell Schachter.

Speaking at ACT-IAC’s Federal Insights Exchange today, the CIO confirmed that DoT officially received the TMF award about two to three weeks ago, and has another pending TMF application.

“DoT just got its first TMF award, and that’s for a modernization at the FAA,” Schachter said.

“It was important to the TMF as well as important to DoT to be in that community, and we have one more application pending,” he said. “I don’t want to spoil things, but I’m hopeful that we’ll get a positive result there as well.”

Schachter later confirmed to MeriTalk that the award to modernize the FAA is worth $6.43 million, and he noted his appreciation for the new funds during the ACT-IAC event.

“From a budget standpoint, it’s always nice to have more money and money that at some sort of reduced payback percentage – so a little discount on the project,” he said. “On the other hand, what’s been very useful is the TMF expects you to use best practices around project management, acquisition, [and] technologies.”

“So, it imposes a certain amount of discipline that you’re going to need to be up to those standards if you’re going to be successful,” he continued. “And I think as smart as we are, everyone can benefit from having an outsider look in and give you a little perspective on what you’re doing.”

In January, the FAA faced a major system outage to its Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system that caused the agency to temporarily pause flights nationwide due to a contractor who had “unintentionally deleted files.” It was the first nationwide ground stop since Sept. 11, 2001, and caused the delay and cancelation of thousands of flights.

The outage sparked calls for a joint review of the vulnerabilities of all systems supporting national air travel. At a Senate panel hearing last month to discuss the issue, the FAA said its modernization work on the NOTAM system was set to be completed by fiscal year 2025, but that the agency was looking to accelerate that timeline.

While Schacter did not specify exactly what technology the FAA will be improving with its TMF funding, the nature of TMF awards can help with accelerating projects, as the receiving agency will not have to wait for the regular appropriations cycle to undertake additional work.

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.