Congress

Modernization committee makes proposals to help staffers, improve IT

Congressional offices may face some staffing and process changes in the coming months, as the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress voted July 25 to unanimously approve 24 recommendations for improving congressional operations.

The set of approved changes now move on as a report to the full House of Representatives, which could result in a voted-on resolution or even a few pieces of legislation to authorize some of the larger recommended reforms.

The first five recommendations address human resources in congressional offices, by creating a Human Resources HUB for all staff; making the Office of Diversity and Inclusion permanent; changing payroll to a semimonthly system; raising the cap on the number of staff allowed in member offices; and regularly surveying staff on improving pay and benefits.

Recommendations six through 11 address on-boarding new members of the House, by allowing newly elected members to hire one transition staff member; making new-member orientation unpartisan and more comprehensive, promoting civility during that orientation; creating a Congressional Leadership Academy to offer training to members; and making cybersecurity training mandatory for members.

The third and largest set of recommendations — 10 in all — address the need for improved IT in Congress, by reestablishing the Office of Technology Assessment; reforming House Information Resources; requiring HIR to prioritize certain technology improvements; reforming the approval process for outside IT vendors; allowing House offices to test new technologies; creating a technology services point of contact for each member office; creating a customer service portal; moving technology funds out of individual offices and placing them in a single account to leverage the mass buying power; prioritizing a rapid response program at the Congressional Research Service for fact sheets on important issues; and following HUB-established best practices for constituent engagement services.

Finally, the last three recommendations address disability services by improving access to congressional websites, requiring the broadcast of all House proceedings with closed-caption services and requiring a review of the Capitol complex to determine where accessibility issues exist.

These are the second set of recommendations that the newly formed committee has sent to the full House, and many stem from testimony and statements submitted by both members of Congress and experts in the respective fields.

“Our recommendations were really crafted with these perspectives and shared data points in mind,” Committee Chairman Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., said in a press call after the hearing.

All four sets of recommendations passed unanimously with bipartisan support, and Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., encouraged the members of the committee to “stand together” for their continued support in the full House.

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