Congress

Bill would codify Presidential Innovation Fellows program

Kevin McCarthy Majority Leader

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has introduced a bill to make the Presidential Innovation Fellows program permanent.

The White House set up the PIF program in 2012, creating yearlong fellowships to attract young technology entrepreneurs to government, and the maturing program enjoys bipartisan support.

"This legislation ensures that this program will continue into future administrations and that our nation will benefit from the public service by some of the brightest minds our country has to offer," McCarthy said in a statement.

The bill, dubbed the TALENT Act, would keep the PIF program intact, including by preserving a federal advisory board that helps identify possible PIF projects.

"It is in the national interest for the government to attract the brightest minds skilled in technology or innovative practices to serve in the government to work on some of the nation's biggest and most pressing challenges," the legislation states.

President Barack Obama issued an executive order in August 2015 codifying the PIF program, but a future president could rescind that order. The TALENT Act would make the program permanent.

"Our policies should enable and encourage private citizens to serve our country by sharing their expertise with all levels of government," McCarthy said. "Not only does this improve how government operates but [it] instills civic goodwill.

The PIF program has yielded tangible results. One project built a website that pooled resources on preventing and responding to sexual assault on college campuses and in schools.

There has, however, been some controversy surrounding the program's cost structure, which evidence suggests is weighted toward overhead costs incurred by agencies.  And some in industry have argued that the private sector could be equally nimble if freed from some of the bureaucracy and compliance requirements that come with federal IT acquisition.

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is a former FCW staff writer.

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