The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) IT officials detailed progress and said their agencies have made so far in utilizing grants awarded by the TMF (Technology Modernization Fund), and also highlighted the advantages of TMF funding including the capacity to reimburse the working capital fund through cost savings.
During FCW’s Federal IT Acquisition Summit, CIO at USDA Gary Washington stated that going through this process, from a people, process, and technology perspective, has instilled a lot of energy into USDA and opened up the art of the possible. He emphasized the two projects of USDA that have received TMF funding, and how they are progressing. Washington said that his agency’s first project was farmers.gov, and they have the first round of those funds, so they’ve started implementing that farmer-facing portal to automate the services that the agency offers to farmers. He further said that the second award was for Cloud Computing, and they are in process of working with GSA right now to receive those funds.
For HUD, agency CTO Mark Hayes described that the process to get the funds for the department’s migration away from a UNISYS mainframe computer went a little less smoothly, but the grant has still thrilled for the department. Hayes said his agency received the funding in the August-September timeline because it took a while to get all the agreements in place. The appropriations attorneys were very interested in how does this fund work, so it took a lot of time and back-and-forth between GSA and the appropriations attorneys to weigh if the agency is booking payments without having a budget in place. Additionally, he said that after difficulties due to funds coming in at the end of the FY, the agency has their first award planned for this month. He also pointed to the good partnership between his office and the agency’s Chief Financial Officer and praised HUD Secretary Ben Carson’s sponsorship of the project as a key sign of leadership buy-in.
However, TMF does not equivalent free money. Washington and Hayes detailed how they planned to pay back their grants over time. Washington said that his team will work with the mission area agencies on ensuring that they are in a position to fulfill their commitment on that end, whether it be mission area agencies paying it back, or they utilize savings that are recognized from management decisions that the agency make.