Experts say new Congress offers avenue for fresh ideas

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The new Democratic-controlled Congress will be an activist Congress, creating opportunities for information technology managers to sell legislators on their programs and priorities, a former congressional staff member said yesterday.

"Things have changed completely with the new majority in the House and Senate," said Grace Cummings, who spent 25 years working in congressional offices and political campaigns. Cummings, founder of Working With Congress, a Washington consulting firm, and an adjunct faculty member of the Office of Personnel Management’s Federal Executive Institute, spoke at an Association for Federal Information Resources Management (AFFIRM) luncheon in Washington. "It’s a whole different ballgame," she said.

Out of power for 12 years, Democrats are ready to get on with their agenda and are open to new ideas, Cummings said.

Another speaker said agency leaders can expect a proactive Congress. "There’s this tremendous pent-up energy — pent-up frustration, in some ways — to get things done," said Kathy Gille, a training associate for Working With Congress and a former senior policy adviser to former Rep. David Bonior (D-Mich.) "It’s a challenge for this new Congress to move from what was a very reactive mode — 12 years in exile — to being much more proactive."

Members are "working more hours, holding more hearings and introducing more legislation," Gille said. "They’re trying not to just catch the political waves but to chase them. It is a time when they’re trying to plant seeds for new ideas and new innovations."

In the past, agencies haven’t adequately conveyed to Congress how IT helps government do its job better, faster, cheaper and simpler, said Richard Burk, the Office of Management and Budget’s chief architect and president of AFFIRM. "We need to include the Hill in the heart of this conversation about how information technology contributes to the mission of government," he said.

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