Innovation

Tech leaders urge Senate to codify PIF program

Shutterstock image (by art4all): broken colorful idea. 

A group of entrepreneurs, coders, and former officials are urging the Senate to pass legislation that would make the Presidential Innovation Fellows program a permanent fixture of government.

The program, founded in 2012, is one of President Barack Obama's hallmark tech initiatives. It seeks to bring in technology entrepreneurs from the private sector for yearlong stints to tackle IT challenges across government.

The letter's 39 signatories, including Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, AOL founder Steve Case, Twitter co-founder Ev Williams, and former White House tech official Nick Sinai, asked Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee members Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) to move a bill already passed in the House in support of the PIF program.

In Aug. 2015, Obama issued an executive order codifying the program, but the incoming Trump administration has the authority to rescind the order. 

The legislation to enshrine the PIF program in law is the Tested Ability to Leverage Exceptional National Talent Act, which was introduced in the House by Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in July. Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.), James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) introduced the bill in the Senate on Nov. 30.

"By codifying the Presidential Innovation Fellows Program, the TALENT Act will ensure that this innovative program continues to provide fresh thinking and cutting-edge expertise to our 21st century federal government," they write.

While the program passed the House by a considerable margin and enjoys bipartisan support, the program has been criticized due to its price tag.

The program is currently taking applications for its spring 2017 class.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter

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