USDA, HUD, Energy win extra money to boost IT modernization efforts

The Agriculture Department was first out of the gate with the Centers of Excellence IT modernization initiative. It launched Farmers.gov in February under the auspices of the Trump administration’s call to put citizens’ needs first when redesigning websites.

So it’s no surprise USDA is among the first agencies to receive the first tranche of funding from the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF).

The Office of Management and Budget announced USDA, the Energy Department and the Department of Housing and Urban Development earned approval from the TMF Board to get some of the $100 million in additional funding to push ongoing IT modernization projects over the top.

“These proposals show the need to update our federal infrastructure and create new operating models that align with aggressive technology transformation,” said Suzette Kent, the Federal Chief Information Officer, in a release on Thursday. “The board believes these projects deliver citizen benefits, meet the specific technology transformation goals defined in the MGT Act, have agency leadership support, and contains effective cost savings strategy that are at the heart of the TMF model.”

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USDA is receiving $10 million to further develop the Farmers.gov portal.

Energy is collecting $15 million to accelerate its move to put its email in the cloud.

HUD is securing $20 million to move more quickly on its application migration effort away from mainframes.

Congress created the TMF and the board under the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act in December. Lawmakers pushed through $100 million out of the $228 million the Trump administration requested for fiscal 2018.

OMB issued the instructions for how the TMF would work on March, named the board members in late February and agencies submitted proposals around the same time.

These first set of awards signal that the board will hand out more funding later this year. GSA, which runs the TMF program office, is holding a proposal writing seminar today to push encourage agencies to submit more applications.

USDA launched Farmers.gov in February as a one-stop shop for its customers to find answers to their questions, contact agency representatives or discover new services.

With the extra funding, Agriculture is planning future updates for the site, including developing mobile friendly forms and digital receipts.

Energy’s move to email in the cloud is a priority for its CIO Max Everett.

Everett told Federal News Radio in September that he’s looking at a decentralized cloud model for their commodity computing efforts.

Over the last seven years, Energy laboratories migrated email to the cloud on an ad-hoc basis. For example in 2011, Idaho National Laboratory hired Unisys under a $10 million contract to move to Google email. Berkeley National Lab also began moving its employees to Google email in 2011.

HUD’s mainframe migration initiative was a main priority with former CIO Johnson Joy, who resigned suddenly in March.

The agency is continuing to this effort that is looking specifically at the code, to see how many lines there are and what kind of structure they have. HUD seeks to replace the old code by performing a back-end extraction and front-end development to convert it into a modern language.

HUD is running a pilot with the mortgage insurance program that all the banks use. The test is using a code generator to perform this kind of extract and ensure that the new code works the same way.

In 2015 the HUD inspector general wrote 74 of 85 critical systems are at the end of service for vendor support.