Biden floats $9B boost to tech modernization fund

The incoming Biden-Harris administration announced a $1.9 trillion "rescue" package to help Americans whose incomes have taken a hit from the pandemic, which includes a major uptick in technology spending to secure government systems and spur modernization.

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President-elect Joe Biden today released his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that includes $9 billion for a fund used to improve the federal government's IT and cybersecurity.

Most of the massive surge in funding is to accelerate the nationwide vaccine campaign and to provide aid to Americans who have been economically harmed during the pandemic, with expanded cash grants, food and child care aid, housing assistance and more.

On the technology front, the proposed funding for the Technology Modernization Fund would "help the U.S. launch major new IT and cybersecurity shared services at the Cyber Security and Information Security Agency (CISA) and the General Services Administration and complete modernization projects at federal agencies," according to a summary of the proposal released by the Biden transition team.

The investment would be a massive boost for TMF, which was appropriated $25 million in the fiscal year 2021 spending bills. TMF was established under the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act of 2017, and was initially funded with $100 million, and has received annual updates in the $25 million range since then, but has been held in check by some appropriators who are concerned about the payback provisions and accountability mechanisms.

Biden's plan would also provide $200 million for the federal CIO office at the Office of Management and Budget to support "rapid hiring" in the information security officer and the U.S. Digital Service operations.

The plan provides $300 million for the Technology Transformation Services at GSA to spearhead IT projects for agencies "without the need of reimbursement," according to the summary.

CISA would receive $690 million to boost cybersecurity across federal networks and pilot "new shared security and cloud computing services," the summary says.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), a co-sponsor of the MGT Act, greeted the tech spending boost.

"I am delighted the incoming Biden administration recognizes the Technology Modernization Fund can be a tool to drive IT modernization in the federal government, and I am eager to work with them to ensure the TMF is successful," Connolly said in an emailed statement.