The leaders of the House Oversight and Accountability Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Information Technology, and Government Innovation are planning to introduce legislation that would revamp the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF), and are also considering the addition of a legacy IT modernization category to the FITARA Scorecard.

At an afternoon hearing on May 10, Subcommittee Chairwoman Nancy Mace, R-S.C., said she intends to introduce legislation that would “sharpen” the TMF, which was created in 2017 under the Modernizing Government Technology Act to provide money to Federal civilian agencies to undertake tech modernization projects.

“A new funding vehicle, the Technology Modernization Fund, was created in 2017. It provided another tool for replacing legacy IT, but it’s become clear that it’s a tool that needs sharpening,” Chairwoman Mace said. “So, I intend to introduce legislation soon that will do just that. I expect this hearing to help inform that bill.”

While Rep. Mace did not dive into the exact details of the bill, she noted that the subcommittee will continue to focus its oversight and legislative efforts on “innovative solutions that actually move the needle on the old problem of IT modernization – and that’s what this legislation will do.”

The TMF in recent months has been spending down some of the $1 billion cash infusion it received from Congress in 2021. Since 2017, the fund has invested in a total of 40 projects across 24 Federal agencies.

Suzette Kent, CEO of Kent Advisory Services and former Federal chief information officer (CIO), noted that of the 40 TMF projects, there have only been two that have not hit their timeline and there have been zero that had cost overruns. However, Kent agreed with Rep. Mace that the fund requires improvement.

“The Technology Modernization Fund, it was created as a source for urgent needs and to provide a multi-year vehicle focusing on legacy IT transition, cybersecurity, and emerging technology – but it could use sharpening,” Kent said. “It’s not at the pace of technology change or at a scale that overcomes technical debt.”

The former Federal CIO said Congress should explore reestablishing priorities and “making legacy transition an agency priority and updating how those outcomes are measured.”

Subcommittee Ranking Member Gerry Connolly, D-Va., said he remains committed to reauthorizing the TMF, as well as using the FITARA Scorecard – issued by the House Oversight and Accountability Committee – as a tool to modernize legacy IT.

However, the ranking member emphasized that there is still room for improvement in tracking “IT modernization planning and implementation” efforts.

Dave Powner, executive director of MITRE Corp.’s Center for Data-Driven Policy and former director of IT at the Government Accountability Office, testified on his nonprofit’s recent report, which calls on Congress to revamp the FITARA Scorecard to include a legacy modernization grading category.

Powner explained that while the TMF is a great tool that agencies can use, it’s also “important to evolve” the FITARA Scorecard to include categories such as legacy modernization.

“Madam Chairwoman, I’d be delighted to work with you in adding this legacy modernization category to the scorecard, because I think we’ve got to have plans in place to finally retire legacy systems and a timeline and a budget for how we do that,” Rep. Connolly said in response.

Rep. Mace concluded the hearing by reiterating that the subcommittee will be “introducing legislation to help improve modernization efforts with IT legacy systems.”

“This hearing has reinforced this sort of need for these kinds of bills and legislation,” she told the witnesses. “So, we appreciate your feedback, and we look forward to continuing our conversation as we work together.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.