The Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) is calling out to Federal agencies to apply for funding that will help them implement requirements of the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience (IDEA) Act.

The IDEA Act was approved by Congress in late 2018, and created a set of minimum functionality and security standards that all public-facing Federal agency websites and digital services must meet. The law gave agencies one year to make sure that their websites and digital services came in line with the new standards, but adoption has been slow and uneven since then.

TMF, which is administered by the General Services Administration (GSA) and is chaired by Federal CIO Clare Martorana, said it is looking to change that by asking for proposals for projects to implement the requirements of the IDEA Act.

The fund said that agency submissions for IDEA Act implementation help will be accepted on a rolling basis through Sept. 22.

“Submissions may be accepted after September 22, 2023, but proposal approval is subject to the TMF’s available funding,” TMF said.  The fund is pointing agencies to templates and other tips on how to get the process started.

TMF also alerted agencies to a “new, streamlined process … available for projects that meet the TMF Criteria,” and that are aimed at two key portions of the IDEA Act – improving website accessibility, and digitizing public-facing forms.

“Agencies begin the process by contacting the TMF Program Management Office to discuss the project,” TMF said. “Different agencies may be at different stages of 21st Century IDEA implementation, and with different access to resources,” it added.

The fund also reminded that its program management office (PMO) “will help agencies determine what level of funding and other resources are needed to ensure the project is successful,” and also help agencies “determine what level of project repayment is appropriate.”

“The requirements of the [IDEA] Act are expansive and complex, so regardless of funding level or other attributes, all projects must be supported by high-functioning teams with executive champions,” TMF said in its call for proposals.

The TMF was created in 2017 under the Modernizing Government Technology Act to provide money to Federal civilian agencies to undertake tech modernization projects, with the understanding that agencies would repay borrowings from the fund with savings generated by those projects.

Repayment terms were relaxed for agencies during the coronavirus pandemic, when the fund received a $1 billion infusion from Congress in 2021. From that one-time infusion, and periodic regular appropriations from Congress, TMF still has several hundred million dollars of money available for investment.

The new TMF funding call for IDEA Act projects appears to follow through on Martorana’s statement in May that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) was expected to issue guidance this summer to Federal agencies on how to further implement requirements of the law.

During a citizen service-themed address at the Federal Tech Day event in May organized by the Department of Labor and other agencies, Martorana talked about the additional IDEA Act guidance in the pipeline.

“This summer … we will be releasing guidance for agencies to continue to execute on the requirements of the 21st Century IDEA Act,” the Federal CIO said.

The underlying law is “four pages of incredible guidance for the journey that most of us have been on in many organizations across government,” she said. “Agencies will be required to modernize their websites and digital products, digitize forms and services, accelerate the use of e-signatures, [and] standardize and transition to central shared services and standards.”

“Our guidance is only the first step in spurring on this ongoing innovation,” she said in May. “It is my statutory responsibility in the Office of the Federal CIO to put out this guidance, to make sure that agencies understand that we’ve convened people around the table to influence the guidance so that we’re connecting policy to implementation, so that it helps people on the ground, and so it is not ‘thou shalt go move the mountain.’”

“It is actually helping provide steps so that our implementation is informed and excellent,” the Federal CIO emphasized, adding, “we will continue to work with our budget colleagues to bring them on this 21st century digital modernization and transformation journey.”

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