Capitol Corner — February 28, 2018

Capitol Corner — February 28, 2018

DC-CapitolCorner

Published monthly as part of the FLC’s DC Perspective news content, Capitol Corner focuses on one notable news item pertaining to the technology transfer (T2) community. The focus stems from agency publications, news sites, and DC-central organizations, with original sources, contacts, and links provided. For more information and Corner-related inquiries, please contact dcnews@federallabs.org.

FY19 Budget Request: Spotlight on T2

President Trump’s budget request for Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 seeks to improve and safeguard American infrastructure, both in our capital and in the cyber arena. The General Services Administration (GSA), in a press release written by Administrator Emily Murphy, predicted that this budget request will “improve our government’s security posture and empower agencies to more efficiently and effectively accomplish their critical missions.” How will this happen, especially for those concerned with tech transfer?

Increased Budget, Revamped Priorities

For starters, the budget request shows dramatic increases in T2-adjacent funding. The American Institute of Physics (AIP) reports that Trump’s request includes obligating $90 billion for the Department of Defense (DoD)’s (DoD) research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E) arm. This amount can be compared to the $83 billion proposed for FY 2018 by the same administration, and the $72 billion for FY 2017 by the Obama administration. Such a boost might be courtesy of Mike Griffin, who was sworn in as Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering last week.

At his confirmation hearing, Undersecretary Griffin made T2 one of his central themes and talking points.  Griffin outlined two major issues in the T2 space, particularly the difficulty agencies have solidifying lab technologies for practical use. “A friend of mine once said that it’s a little bit like Dante’s Inferno—'abandon all hope, ye who enter here’—when it comes to technology transition,” Griffin said of the challenge. As Undersecretary, Griffin hopes to streamline the connection between tech research and development (R&D) groups and tech acquisition groups. “I’d like to more formalize the role of transition offices,” he said. This would allow for greater oversight of innovative technology as it moves from testing to implementation.

In line with Griffin’s aims, funding has also been spiked to $13.7 billion for DoD’s basic research, applied research, and advanced technology development. The FY 2018 budget request featured a $500 million deficit in this area. By increasing early-stage R&D, later-stage implementation may have a more informed, organic workflow.

Key Investments of Note

The GSA provided a summary of the FY 2019 budget request and its appropriations. Two appropriations directly apply to T2 topics of interest.

  • Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) — $210 million appropriated: The TMF was authorized under the Modernizing Government Technology Act (MGTA). As we previously reported, the MGTA “appropriates a $500 million fund for agencies to develop and initiate IT modernization projects.” The TMF, a GSA-managed fund, will be overseen by a board that includes a member of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)'s National Protection and Programs Directorate, with other members approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
  • IT Dashboard and other IT reporting management funding — $20.5 million appropriated: The main investment in this pool is the IT Dashboard, a public-facing platform used to view federal IT investments and contracts by agency and track trends. Data is updated by agency Chief Information Officers. This investment will also establish “a new project management office for the governmentwide implementation of Technology Business Management principles,” according to the GSA.

Seeing as previous Trump budget proposals have been rejected or behind a government shutdown, the application of these funds and their amounts may change as congressional approval looms.

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