A collection of trade groups representing the nation’s biggest tech firms is urging Senate leadership to match or exceed the $1 billion in funding for the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) approved by the House last month as part of the HEROES Act pandemic-relief legislation.

The trade groups are also calling for legislative action to boost the ability of Federal agencies to fund modernization through working capital funds, and want legislators to provide more money for the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) and FedRAMP programs.

The TMF provision in the House bill would mark a massive increase in the fund, which received only $25 million in each of the last two fiscal years. Language in the bill says the new money would support technology-related modernization projects to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus. The bill received a chilly reception in the Senate last month, and a veto threat from the White House, which said the legislation was “more concerned with delivering on longstanding partisan and ideological wishlists.”

The tech groups – including the Internet Alliance, Information Technology Industry Council, and the Alliance for Digital Innovation – told Senate leadership in a June 29 letter that the ongoing pandemic “continues to highlight the need for additional IT investments” by government to support telework and telemedicine, and to improve citizen services including loan and unemployment programs.

The $1 billion boost in TMF funding, the groups said, would support “meaningful investment in cross-agency IT modernization initiatives.” They said the proposed new funding should also come with relaxed payback requirements when tied to pandemic or disaster recovery efforts so that Federal agencies can move on modernization projects quickly.

“To date, public sector [CIOs] have performed commendably as they have sought to ensure continuity of operations while also ramping up IT systems that facilitate government management and oversight of COVID-19 recovery initiatives,” the groups said in the letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“However, the prevalence of outdated legacy IT continues to hamper the effectiveness of recovery efforts,” they said. “Citizens are being denied positive digital government experiences as they seek access to much needed programs, such as securing business loan programs, receiving economic security payments, or applying for unemployment benefits.”

In addition to the TMF increase, the tech trade groups also urged senators to: 1) boost Federal agency tech modernization and security budgets over multiple years; 2) create a Federal funding mechanism to support state and local government IT and security modernization; 3) provide additional legislative authority for agencies to establish IT working capital funds to support modernization; 4) increase funding for the CDM program; and 5) support funding to improve the FedRAMP program by automating the security authorization process.

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.