TMF Board Members Tie Fund to Broader Change in Federal IT

Margie Graves is the deputy Federal CIO.

Three members of the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) board and Federal Deputy CIO Margie Graves spoke today about fund’s ongoing efforts including the transferable effect of some of the board’s decision principles and how they tie into the larger IT modernization ecosystem.

“There are criteria that are set that are actually the type of criteria venture capitalists use to choose their projects,” Graves said today at the American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council’s Imagine Nation ELC Conference. “Knowing that we don’t have infinite resources and knowing that we have to prioritize, the board is a very important part of that.”

That fact seems well documented. The TMF board has often discussed its selection process and criteria, and the development of a strong business case and definitive timelines for repayment may be proving challenging, as only three projects have been awarded.

“It’s rare that we’ve seen a proposal that comes in that hits the mark on everything, but sometimes the vision or the reason for the proposal makes a lot of sense, but then the plan doesn’t stack out” said Social Security Administration CIO Rajive Mathur. “Our job then is to tease out what they really want to do and how do we make sure there is alignment between the detailed plan, the financial model, and the uses of funds with what their vision is.”

“I think one of the most important things we’re doing is asking the right set of questions, and hopefully getting agencies, when they go through the process, to go back and ask those same sort of questions when they’re thinking about all the kinds of investments they can make within their agency,” said Alan Thomas, commissioner of the General Service Administration’s Federal Acquisition Service.

It seems the TMF board is attempting to achieve a sort of cross-pollination. If the project doesn’t fit the TMF model, the basic tenets of the proposal process – determining your plan, method, and savings – still remain applicable, perhaps to an agency’s own internal review board, Thomas noted.

And that’s because TMF is just one piece of the pie, but a more concerted effort at truly effective modernization requires an integrated approach. Small Business Administration CIO Maria Roat spoke about the connection of TMF to other efforts across government.

“Things are continuing to build upon each other. We’ve had continued success with modernization, continue to push forward with FITARA,” she said. “Now we’ve got these goals, this vision, this target to which we’re headed, and these are all bringing things together.”

“The long-term vision has been set by the PMA,” Graves said. “We didn’t get here overnight and so we’re going to be on this journey of working ourselves out of these challenges over time.”

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