TMF looks to fund AI projects

The Technology Modernization Fund wants to give agencies money to work on artificial intelligence projects, as the General Services Administration announced a call for proposals to implement the Biden administration’s AI executive order on Thursday. 

“As one of the world’s largest enterprises, the federal government has an obligation to harness the power of AI for good while protecting people from its risks,” said Clare Martorana, TMF board chair and federal chief information officer, in a statement. 

GSA wants “mission-enabling” AI in particular, it says, to help agencies coordinate across departments and between programs or modernize old systems. Chatbots or video captioning to improve user experience; form digitization to help staff internally; cyber vulnerability reporting; and comment summarization are among the examples GSA offers on the potential for the tech.

GSA says that it’s “offering multiple paths to funding” depending on whether the proposal is less than or more than $6 million.

Projects under the $6 million cutoff that are backed by user research or proof of concept research from the agency — and would take no more than one and a half years — will be eligible for an expedited process for piloting, the agency says. 

This expedited process is new, a GSA spokesperson told Nextgov/FCW in response to emailed questions, and there’s no specific cap on how much of the remaining TMF funding can be used to back these AI proposals. 

Proposals larger than $6 million will have to apply through TMF’s initial process that precedes a full project proposal to the TMF, GSA says. 

For both, TMF will require user testing, risk mitigation, evaluation metrics and more, GSA says.

The call for proposals will add to the fund’s existing list of projects. Although lawmakers haven’t always been keen to add money to the TMF, the fund got a $1 billion plus-up through the American Rescue Plan Act in 2021 and has also gotten $225 million over the course of its existence through normal budget processes.

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