A House-Senate conference committee has pegged FY 2019 funding for the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) at just $25 million, according to text of legislation made public by the House Rules Committee and set to be considered by the committee, and possibly by the House, next week.

TMF was created by Congress in late 2017 to provide money for Federal agencies to fund IT modernization projects, achieve savings, and reinvest those savings in a central revolving capital fund.

The legislation that will be considered by House Rules next week–H.R. 648, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019–includes several appropriations bills that were left unfinished last year and that since then have been worked on by a conference committee to reconcile differences in House and Senate versions of the bills.

H.R. 648 is the single bill that has resulted from the conference committee effort, and unless it were to be voted down either in the House or Senate, there is no chance for legislators to further haggle over its terms.

One of the bills wrapped up in H.R. 648 is H.R. 6147 – the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Regulated Agencies Appropriations Act – that last year revealed a wide gulf of sentiment between House and Senate appropriators on the need for TMF funding for FY 2019. The House version of the bill featured $150 million of TMF funding, while the Senate version of the bill did not include any funding at all for FY 2019.

Explanatory documents for H.R. 648 show that the measure provides $25 million of proposed funding for TMF in FY 2019.

Notably in the bigger picture for appropriations amid the current partial Federal government shutdown, H.R. 648 does not include appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security – reflecting the enduring bone of contention between Congress and the White House over funding for a wall on the southern U.S. border.

The House Rules Committee has scheduled a meeting to consider H.R. 648 on Jan. 22 at 5 p.m.

But whether any appropriations legislation will be agreed to at all by both houses of Congress while the partial shutdown continues remains an open question.

The FY 2019 TMF funding saga has been a long-running affair.

TMF received $100 million of appropriations for FY 2018, but as of late last year had not spent all of that amount. At the time the Senate was balking last year at providing more funding for FY 2019, senators asked for more information from the General Services Administration and the Office of Management and Budget–which oversee the TMF–about the progress of the program before it would make the decision to dole out more funds for FY2019.

The fund has received consistently strong support from the White House and Federal CIO Suzette Kent, who chairs the TMF board. Likewise, Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, said in October he was “pretty sure that we have resolved the issue with TMF” and expected Congress to approve the full $150 million agreed to by the House.

A Capitol Hill source who follows the issue speculated today that the House and Senate conferees who produced H.R. 648 may have settled on allowing TMF to operate in FY 2019 with its remaining FY 2018 funds plus $25 million in new money for FY 2019, and see how the program works at that funding level, rather than moving to zero out funding altogether.

The next turn in the story may come next week in the House.

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MeriTalk Staff