AFTER FURTHER REVIEW, CONGRESS SEEMS RELUCTANT TO FULLY-FUND TMF
Despite support from the Biden Administration and several Senators, substantial additional funding for the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) no longer seems likely. A lack of Congressional support for adding $9 billion to the fund as part of a COVID-relief bill became apparent during the recent confirmation hearing for OMB Administrator-designate Neera Tanden. The problem with fully funding the TMF is not that Congress believes that large-scale IT modernization across federal agencies isn’t needed. Rather, the fund’s non-agency specific status means that legislators would have to cede control of where the money is applied, something Congress is always reluctant to do. Appropriating money for specific projects enables Members and Senators to direct spending and conduct oversight. A general pot of money, not allocated for any specific initial purpose, is also difficult to account for within current budget and appropriations rules. Tanden stated that she was optimistic that other avenues could be found to increase technology accounts, even if a more traditional agency-by-agency approach was used. Among her many comments of support was a statement on pandemic-related IT spending. “We recognize the importance of this modernization during a global pandemic where we need to make sure that our agencies’ information and essentially the public’s privacy is protected and protected well.” Although this, and other positive statements, indicate that Tanden might be an ally for increased tech spending, her well-documented reputation for smearing those with whom she disagrees may want to make contractors think twice about fully engaging with OMB. Working with specific customer agencies may be a better approach.