A dozen tech-sector trade groups today urged House and Senate leaders from both major parties to include in coronavirus relief legislation President Biden’s proposal for $9 billion of new funding for the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) that lends money out to Federal agencies to undertake IT modernization efforts.

The proposed increase in TMF funding, along with another $1.2 billion directed toward Federal agency security and modernization efforts, are included in the administration’s $1.9 trillion relief legislation that Democrats are pursuing through the budget reconciliation process.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly accelerated the need for the Federal Government to modernize its aging IT infrastructure,” the groups said in their letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D.-N.Y., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

In addition to urging that the $9 billion TMF provision be included in any emergency relief bill, the groups asked that a “substantial portion” of that amount be exempted from TMF’s existing reimbursement provisions in order to speed the Federal agency IT modernization process.  They did not state a preferred figure for the total exemption but indicated it should be a majority share of the $9 billion.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, Americans, particularly the most vulnerable populations, have been unable to access most government services in person,” the groups said. “Yet federal agencies still rely on many outdated and legacy IT systems and paper-based processes that have hampered the effectiveness of government operations and mission delivery. Updating these systems is not only critical to improving access to services but also to ensure those who are most in need of government assistance receive the emergency funding Congress has appropriated.”

“Aging IT at the Federal and state levels has hindered the ability of governments to quickly and efficiently get dollars, programs, and services to Americans in need,” the groups said. “While commercial best practices are being used in the private sector to enable vaccine distribution, the Internal Revenue Service, Small Business Administration, and multiple state and local employment insurance programs have faced a number of high-profile challenges with tracking vaccines and distributing aid.”

The groups also highlighted increased cybersecurity risks brought on by the big spike in Federal telework since early 2020 and said that the availability of non-reimbursable TMF funding would help agencies improve security and citizen service.

They also said it was “crucial” that the additional support for Federal IT be paired with “similarly robust and unencumbered federal financial resources to modernize and harden the systems of state, local, tribal, and territorial governments.”

“Non-federal governments throughout the United States are key to the administration of federal programs and funding, and they face equal if not greater needs for investment in information technology with fewer resources with which to do so,” they said.

Signing the letter were the Alliance for Digital Innovation, BSA | The Software Alliance, Center for Procurement Advocacy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Computing Technology Industry Association, Information Technology Industry Council, Intelligence & National Security Alliance, Internet Association, National Defense Industrial Association, Professional Services Council, Security Industry Association, and Software & Information Industry Association.

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