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Jason Chaffetz: Tech-savvy leader on the Hill

Jason Chaffetz

Rep. Jason Chaffetz is emerging as a Capitol Hill technology leader.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) is carving out space for himself as one of the key technology policy experts in the Republican caucus.

When he came to Congress in 2008, he met a lawmaker who was not sold on the promise of technology as a productivity tool. That member grudgingly acquired a single BlackBerry for staffers to share. Although things have improved since then, Chaffetz is still ahead of most of his peers.

"Technology as a whole is still foreign to most of my colleagues," he said. As a leading opponent of the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act, he’s credited with helping members understand how the legislation would alter the government’s relationship with the Internet. He recalls warning lawmakers, "If you don’t know what DNS redirect is, you shouldn’t vote on this issue."

As chairman of the National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, he has been watching the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs struggle with "painful and expensive" efforts to integrate their electronic health records.

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In general, Chaffetz believes government IT professionals are bogged down by procurement cycles and requirements that are ill-suited to technology’s rapid pace of change.

"When I talk to IT people in the bowels of these organizations, they know what to do, but they’re hampered by bureaucratic management that doesn’t allow them to be nimble," he said.

Chaffetz hopes the passage of the bipartisan Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act will allow agencies to become more nimble in the way they procure IT hardware, software and services. He also supports the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, which would change the way federal spending data is released.

"We want agencies to have autonomy, but at the same time, we need to get behind some standards that make data extraction an easier proposition for the public," he said.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is FCW's senior staff writer, and covers Congress, health IT and governmentwide IT policy. Connect with him on Twitter: @thisismaz.

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