The $1 billion of new funding that the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) received earlier this year under the American Rescue Plan Act was welcomed by chief information officers (CIOs) from numerous agencies, but many CIOs are saying the new infusion of money is not enough for IT modernization needs.

In July, Federal CIO Clare Martorana revealed the TMF Board received 108 proposals from Federal agencies totaling $2.1 billion of IT modernization projects competing for some of that $1 billion. With the demand outweighing the supply, Federal CIOs are calling for more funding and a “multi-pronged approach” to IT modernization needs.

“That money is going to go pretty fast. So, no, what’s in TMF is not nearly enough,” Ann Dunkin, CIO at the Department of Energy (DoE), said during an Oct. 5 FCW event. “IT modernization is by definition expensive.”

In September, the TMF Board announced seven new awards totaling $311 million to fund Federal agency investments into zero trust networking and digital identity, standardizing secure data and information sharing, and improving interagency collaboration. Nearly $700 million of the $1 billion in new funding remains to be awarded.

Dunkin stressed that while the TMF “is a great idea,” when it comes to “self-funding it is a challenge because our mandate in IT continually increases.”

“The fact of the matter is is that putting money into the mission directly, providing money to citizen services, providing money to things that look more directly attached the mission is more attractive – it’s more attractive to Congress, it’s more attractive to department and agency leadership,” Dunkin explained.

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“IT is continually going to be challenged and so our job is really to ensure that our business partners understand the value of the services we deliver so that they choose to help provide the funding necessary to do that work, and that Congress understands the value of the services we deliver and the cost of things like cybersecurity, so that we get the funding from Congress that we need,” she said.

Rick Kryger, deputy CIO for operations at the Department of Labor, agreed with Dunkin and said that while his department has received two TMF awards, IT modernization efforts require “a multi-pronged approach” and CIOs need to pursue funding opportunities “where they make sense.”

“Another part of it has to be the equation of building it into the business costs to be able to get that continuous investment, and it gets back to getting the business to understand the value,” Kryger said during the event. “You kind of have to approach it on all fronts, and pursue opportunities, and continue that education with the business of the value that they get – that’s got to be a continuous component of it.”

Jason Gray, CIO at the Department of Education agreed with the “multi-pronged approach” to IT modernization funding and also emphasized the importance of collaboration with stakeholders.

“It’s about that collaboration and stakeholder engagement because I need to make sure that the leadership of the department understands the value that IT brings to the equation.” Gray said.

“What I’m very interested in is seeing how this billion dollars is used and the impact of that – of the TMF funds – and more importantly, the outcomes,” he added. “What are the citizen-facing and serving missions that are going to be positively impacted with the investment of those funds.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.