The Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) is eyeing 2022 for its next round of funding awards to Federal agencies, according to Raylene Yung, TMF Executive Director, who spoke today about the program as part of a panel discussion organized by the Association for Federal Information Resources Management (AFFIRM).

The fund, which is administered by the General Services Administration (GSA), has been evaluating Federal agency bids for some of the $1 billion of funding that TMF was granted by Congress earlier this year under the American Rescue Plan Act.  The fund announced $311 million of new awards in late September, and is continuing to evaluate agency proposals for the remainder.

Federal CIO Clare Martorana said earlier this year that the TMF board had received proposals from agencies totaling more than $2 billion.

Asked today about timing for the next round of awards, Yung responded, “I think we’re looking at some time, likely next year, that we’ll likely focus on the next round.”

Yung emphasized that the “machine is cranking” continuously on receiving and evaluating agency bids for TMF Funding. “We’re both receiving proposals – kind of new ones all the time – and still working through the pipeline that we have,” she said.

Sanjay Gupta, chief technology officer at the Small Business Administration and a member of the TMF board, jokingly answered the same question on timing of the next round of awards by saying, “it could be Tuesday, but we won’t say which Tuesday.”

The TMF board has been working overtime to consider agency funding proposals since it received the new money from Congress earlier this year.

Yung said today that the TMF program has is “really trying to aggressively grow the TMF team [and] kind of scale up or staff … to meet this new increased demand.”

She said the current TMF staff at GSA runs the gamut “from people who really understand the … financials and are looking at making these transfers and following these investments, to technical staff that are really hands-on with not only the proposals, but also the active investments and provide technical guidance … after projects are underway.”

Gupta said the TMF board has been meeting twice per week to consider agency proposals, up from once per week prior to $1 billion funding award from Congress, because “we want to get the monies out sooner than later.”

Speaking for himself and not necessarily any other TMF board members, Gupta explained that he tries to evaluate agency funding bids through several lenses.

First and foremost among those, he said, is whether the applicant had made a good business case. “What I’m trying to look for is how strongly they have the demonstrated the understanding of the problem, and how simply they’ve articulated the solution or the approach to the problem,” he said.

“The first thing for me is business, and what I look for is how are you impacting the mission,” and “how are you going to impact the business outcome that you’re dealing with,” he said. “Technology is important, don’t get me wrong, but I first want to see how we mission is going to be impacted.”

Gupta also said he is looking for “balance” in agency proposals that take into account people, policy, and process.  Then, he is also is looking for a “readiness to execute” on proposed plans, and also for proposals that appear to have support from other agency officials including chief financial officers.

Finally, Gupta said the board is also looking for projects that hit on one or more of the several priority areas already advertised by the fund and the Federal CIO: high-priority areas, cybersecurity, public-facing digital services, and cross-government collaboration.

“What I look for is ideally, if the proposal is hitting all four of those priorities, that for me raises up the priority of that proposal … or even if they’re hitting three of those four areas, or even two of those four areas,” he said.

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