Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., on Thursday introduced the Digital Service Act, which would increase funding for the U.S. Digital Service (USDS) and provide a conduit for state and local governments to get USDS grants to fund information technology (IT) modernization efforts.
The bill would cover the FY2020-2027 period, and would grant $50 million annually to USDS, which is a technology unit created in 2014, housed within the Executive Office of the President, and provides consulting services to Federal agencies on IT subjects.
In addition, the bill would provide $15 million annually to state and local governments to fund two-year USDS grants aim to empower state and local governments to invest in digital service teams comprised of technologists, designers, civil servants, and other experts to modernize government systems.
Each of these grants would range from $200,000 to $2.5 million per year, depending on the population they serve. The bill states that grants require a 20 percent cost share, and at least 50 percent of the grant must fund talent rather than technology. Maintaining accountability is also integral to the legislation, as it would require grantees to report on outcomes before the end of the grant period and would mandate USDS to report to Congress on the impact of grants bi-annually
Harris said that most Americans seek solutions primarily through their state and local governments and that although state and local governments spend billions to deploy technology, many of the technological systems don’t solve the problems they were created to address.
“Americans deserve a government that works for them and that just plain works,” Harris said in a statement. “We must do more to empower our state and local governments to tap into the power of technology to provide seamless, cost-effective services for the 21st century. The Digital Service Act will help harness top talent for the government, save taxpayer dollars, and put the power of technology to work on behalf of the American people.”