Warner, Lankford, Booker introduce bill to codify Presidential Innovation Fellows Program

congressU.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), James Lankford (R-OK), and Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced bipartisan legislation that would codify the Presidential Innovations Fellows (PIF) program, enshrining in law a pathway for government to attract experienced technology entrepreneurs and innovators to public service.

The program, which was established by the White House in 2012 and enjoys bipartisan support, brings the innovation economy into government by pairing talented, diverse technologists, entrepreneurs, and innovators with top civil-servants and change-makers within the federal government to tackle some our nation’s biggest challenges. A similar bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and was overwhelmingly passed by the House back in June.

“Technology has changed dramatically since I first became involved in the telecommunications business, but government has been slow to adapt to new changes in productivity and data access,”said Sen. Warner. “This bill creates a permanent pipeline for our nation’s best and brightest to innovate inside government agencies, allowing for an injection of private sector expertise without creating bureaucratic bloat or displacing change-makers within government. The contributions of the talented participants of the Presidential Innovation Fellows program will help us build a more efficient, accessible, and accountable government for generations to come.”

“This is commonsense legislation that is the first step in addressing the many pressing needs of our federal workforce,” said Sen. Lankford. “I hope that, in the coming months, we can continue to identify areas to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our federal workforce. I am pleased to introduce this bill with Senator Warner and recognize the efforts of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who has a companion bill that has already passed the House.”

“The Presidential Innovation Fellows program has furnished our nation’s boldest engineers and technologists with a unique opportunity to work with government agencies on providing more innovative and engaging services to the public,” said Sen. Booker. “By making this program permanent, Congress can ensure that government keeps up with the pace of innovation while fostering transparency, saving taxpayer dollars, and developing collaborative programs that work for the American people.”

The program is administered as a partnership between the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the General Services Administration (GSA). Fellows serve for between 6 and 24 months, during which they will collaborate with each other and federal agency partners on high-profile initiatives aimed at saving lives, saving taxpayer money, fueling job creation, and building the culture of entrepreneurship and innovation within government. The program does not create any new funding obligations, and agencies requesting a fellow reimburse GSA for both direct and indirect costs incurred by the program.

In a letter sent today to Congressional leadership, a wide range of innovators and technology leaders endorsed the legislation, including Ron Conway, Dan Doctoroff, Craig Newmark, Tim O’Reilly, Shervin Pishevar, and Ev Williams.

“By codifying the Presidential Innovation Fellows Program, the TALENT Act will ensure that this innovative program continues to provide fresh thinking and cutting-edge expertise to our 21st century federal government. We urge the Senate to take up and pass the legislation this work period,” they wrote.

Sen. Warner is a former business executive, governor of Virginia, and chairman of the Budget Committee’s bipartisan Government Performance Task Force from 2010-15. He has been a leader in advocating for the use of technology as a tool for supporting and enhancing public policy objectives, and bringing government into the 21st century. During his time in Congress, Sen. Warner has worked to promote the digital economy and an innovation agenda in the public sector, including expanding broadband access, promoting open data, modernizing government IT, and eliminating duplicative government reporting. His efforts have led to the enactment of two major measures: the Digital Accountability and Transparency (DATA) Act—the 2014 bipartisan federal financial management and transparency legislation which has been described as the most significant open-government initiative since the Freedom of Information Act of 1966 and is the nation’s first open data law—and the Government Performance and Results Modernization Act (GPRA)— which requires federal agencies to report results quarterly on their highest priority programs, and to designate a performance improvement officer for each agency.

More details on the bill can be found here.

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