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Senators aim to codify Innovation Fellows ahead of Trump

Three senators are pushing a bipartisan bill to make an Obama-era innovation program law.

Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., Cory Booker, D-N.J., and James Lankford, R-Okla., have sponsored a Senate bill to codify the Presidential Innovation Fellows in the hopes they can preserve the program beyond the current administration.

The White House started the Presidential Innovation Fellows program in 2012 as a way to incorporate innovators into government for a yearlong term. They are paired with civil servants to craft new initiatives for solving problems facing the government with a startup mentality.

The triumvirate of senators want to preserve the collaborative enterprise of the PIF program ahead of the presidential inauguration in January.

"This bill creates a permanent pipeline for our nation’s best and brightest to innovate inside government agencies, allowing for an injection of private sector expertise without creating bureaucratic bloat or displacing change-makers within government," Warner said in a statement. "The contributions of the talented participants of the Presidential Innovation Fellows program will help us build a more efficient, accessible and accountable government for generations to come."

A similar bill sponsored by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. — the TALENT Act of 2016— passed the House on July 12, and the Senate bill looks to mirror its PIF goals.

"The Presidential Innovation Fellows program has furnished our nation’s boldest engineers and technologists with a unique opportunity to work with government agencies on providing more innovative and engaging services to the public," Booker said in a statement. "By making this program permanent, Congress can ensure that government keeps up with the pace of innovation while fostering transparency, saving taxpayer dollars and developing collaborative programs that work for the American people."

Speculation about the fate of some of the Obama-era innovation programs has abounded as Washington insiders await the incoming Trump administration. MeriTalk reported on Nov. 9that President-elect Donald Trump planned to scrap 18F, the digital services team credited with fixing HealthCare.gov and serving as the innovative arm of the General Services Administration.

The Presidential Innovation Fellows program has been credited with the inception of 18F, the U.S. Digital Service, Data.gov and numerous other digital projects.

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