House Modernization Panel Okays OTA Recommendation

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The House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress voted today to approve 10  recommendations related to modernizing and revitalizing House technology, including one proposal to recreate an offer to advise House members on tech issues.

The ten tech-related recommendations – included in a larger list of 24 recommendations presented today – were approved by the committee without any objections.  All 24 recommendations were approved during a business meeting chaired by Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash.

Among the technology-based recommendations, the committee voted to recommend revitalizing the former Office of Technology Assessment (OTA). That office would “study and recommend emerging technologies, provide non-partisan information and policy analysis to member offices, support legislative branch agencies in their examination of new technologies, focus on general oversight and policy, and facilitate peer reviews of potential new technologies.”

The committee also voted to recommend reforming House Information Resources (HIR) to address HIR’s inability to deliver enterprise programs and IT services in a timely and satisfying manner for member offices. The committee recommended HIR partner with outside entities to develop a roadmap for addressing the root causes of the inefficiency.

HIR would be required to, as soon as practically possible, provide for the following:

  • Video calling from member and staff mobile devices or computers;
  • In conjunction with the clerk’s office, secure e-signatures for letters, bills, and constituent consent forms;
  • Setting up virtual private networks (VPN) on any device, and developing relevant security guidelines; and
  • Allowing constituents to upload casework and requests digitally through a member’s website.

Other recommendations involving HIR include creating an approval process for outside vendors that are developing new technologies; creating a program for member offices to beta test new technologies; establishing a point of contact for each member office within HIR who would be responsible for all technology points of contact; and creating a customer satisfaction portal that will allow members and staff to rate and review outside vendors and HIR services.

The committee also approved a proposal recommending the Chief Administrative Officer “leverage the bulk purchasing power of the House and provide a standard sweep of quality up-to-date devices and software.”

The recommendations will be compiled and submitted to the House, and Rep. Kilmer said he hoped to see all of the recommendations enacted.

Unlike a traditional committee in the House or Senate, the Modernization Committee can’t approve legislation. Its sole authority is to “investigate, study, make findings, hold public hearings, and develop recommendations on modernizing Congress.” The committee is charged with submitting a final report at the end of the first session of the 116th Congress.

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