T2 Touchpoint — March 23, 2018

Published biweekly as part of the FLC’s DC Perspective news content, the T2 Touchpoint gathers updates from inside and around the technology transfer (T2) community. News is collected from agency publications, news sites, and DC-central organizations, with original sources, contacts, and links provided in addition to our streamlined synopses. For more information and Touchpoint-related inquiries, please contact dcnews@federallabs.org.

Budget Bulletin

GAO Publishes Report on IT Acquisitions and Operations, Updates on FITARA

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a study on behalf of David A. Powner, Director of IT Management Issues. This was published after a testimony before the Subcommittees on Government Operations and Information Technology Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in the House of Representatives. Titled Further Implementation of Recommendations Is Needed to Better Manage Acquisitions and Operations, the study was conducted in response to the federal government’s plan to invest $96 billion in information technology (IT) this fiscal year. While that may be the plan, the GAO reports that these investments have been less than successful. In his introductory address, Powner said “the effective and efficient acquisition of IT has been a long-standing challenge in the federal government …[it] has spent billions of dollars on failed and poorly performing IT investments, which often suffered from ineffective management.” The GAO thus finds federal IT acquisitions and operations to be a high-risk area.

Powner’s improvements for federal IT operations largely surrounded properly implementing the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA), which Congress passed in December 2014. FITARA requires several (but not all) federal agencies to provide the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) with a comprehensive inventory of data centers, strategies to consolidate and optimize them, and quarterly progress reports on their changes. FITARA was rolled out to affect a large number of government agencies, and two initiatives to properly implement the Act—the first in June 2015 and the second in August 2016—have been underway. Should the 2016 guidance follow through, the OMB will maintain a public dashboard to “display consolidation-related costs savings and optimization performance information” by the close of fiscal year (FY) 2018. Yet, the OMB reports that only 59% of the FITARA recommendations had been implemented by the affected agencies as of this month—so progress could be stalled.

NSF Seeks to Champion “10 Big Ideas” in Trump Budget Request

The Science, Space, and Technology Committee met last week to discuss the Trump administration’s budget request as it relates to the National Science Foundation (NSF). FY 2019’s budget did not have a planned increase for the NSF, leaving funding at a flat $7.5 billion. However, after warning that China could soon surpass the U.S. as the world’s leader in science and technology (a trend we’ve kept watch on), the NSF requested additional funding for its “10 Big Ideas.” All ten are viewable here, but the two most applicable to the tech transfer sphere are:

  1. Harnessing the Data Revolution – The NSF is seeking to develop a data infrastructure driven by research in order to drive a nationwide, futureproof workforce. Although the example of this Big Idea in action is specific to meteorology, its appeal for research across all NSF Directorates with a research-based educational framework and advanced cyberinfrastructure can be applied to other technological fields.
  2. Mid-scale Research Infrastructure – The NSF has noted that research facilities or activities (e.g., observatories, labs, sensor networks) are costly and their implementation is time-consuming. The Foundation has suggested the migration towards “mid-scale” research infrastructure, which is more dynamic, flexible and agile, to complete activities currently ignored by larger projects.

More on the NSF’s budget as it develops.


Policy Pulse

Technology Modernization Fund Board Holds First Meeting

The Technology Modernization Fund Board—formed to govern the $500 million previously allotted under the Modernizing Government Technology Actmet earlier this month for its inaugural meeting. This Board is comprised of Federal Chief Information Officer Suzette Kent and other agency technology experts to properly manage the fund, the size of which is pending a $210 million increase from Trump’s latest budget request. At this meeting, the Board also agreed on a Statement of Principles featuring the following five fundamentals for all proposals and projects approved under the fund.

  1. Serve the best interests of the American public.
  2. Abide by an open, transparent, and fair process for evaluating project proposals.
  3. Develop an agile project implementation process that supports the mission of the fund.
  4. Promote the health, sustainability and utility of the fund.
  5. Operate according to Board rules and procedures.

The second and third fundamentals speak to how the Board wishes to have agencies apply to use the fund for mission-critical modernization projects. This two-step process—an initial application round and business case development alongside the Board’s technical guidance—will ensure that projects are kept efficient and cost-effective. The full Statement of Principles can be accessed here.


Agency Activities

Trump Management Agenda Seeks Governmentwide Streamlining

OMB Deputy Director for Management Margaret Weichert recently held a town hall meeting in Kansas City, Missouri—a city where the federal government is the largest employer, currently employing over 50, 000 federal workers—to discuss Trump’s management agenda. Fourteen Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goals subdivide this agenda, and many build on those championed by the Obama administration and its push for a “21st-century government.”

The Trump model of a modernized government prioritizes “raising government wide customer experience to the average of the private sector” in CAP Goal 4, which focuses on “Improving Customer Experience with Federal Services” through third-party data collection and decision-making. Two other CAP Goals that are of interest to the tech transfer community include:

  • CAP Goal 3 concerns ”Developing a Workforce for the 21st Century” by thinning it—primarily underperformers misaligned with mission-critical services. According to General Services Administration Chief Emily Murphy, her post’s IT modernization efforts will prioritize key jobs—like those in cybersecurity—and focus on the push to shared services.
  • CAP Goal 14 seeks to “Improve Transfer of Federally Funded Technologies from Lab-to-Market.” As annual government R&D funding hovers around $150 billion, optimized tech transfer operations will maximize return on that investment. This will be done by reducing tech transfer’s administrative and regulatory hurdles, engaging with private technology firms and investors, creating a more entrepreneurial R&D workforce, supporting tech transfer innovation, and improving wide-scale understanding of global R&D trends. This CAP Goal seeks to solidify technology transfer best practices across the agencies, which will increase and expedite lab-to-market innovations.
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DC Dispatch