Mariel Saez 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) delivered keynote remarks at FedScoop's IT Modernization Summit. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. Last July, I gave a speech at Georgetown Law School to introduce a set of proposals aimed at renewing Americans’ faith in their government. In those remarks, I cited a Pew Poll from 2015 that found only 19% of Americans trust the government all or most of the time. What’s striking about that figure is how it compares to a poll taken in 1964, in which 77% had such trust.
“The exit polls in November’s election add to this narrative of a decline in public faith in government. They showed that dissatisfaction with government spanned the political spectrum. Democrats, Republicans, Independents – it doesn’t matter what you believe government’s role to be. Chances are you don’t trust it to achieve what you believe it ought to be doing. And that’s a shame.
“It’s a shame because government ought to be a force for improving people’s lives, expanding opportunities, and making sure that our people feel safe. So in my remarks, I laid out four key action areas where we can renew Americans’ faith in government.
“They include passing campaign finance reform, protecting voting rights, and fixing the congressional redistricting process. But the fourth one, which I want to speak at greater length about today, is modernizing government technology.
“If Americans see that their government agencies are as connected, responsive, and technologically nimble as the businesses whose apps and websites they use every day, it will go a long way toward renewing that faith.
“That’s why I introduced the Information Technology Modernization Act last Congress, working closely with U.S. Chief Information Officer Tony Scott. I then worked across the aisle with Rep. Will Hurd to bring a bipartisan version of it to the Floor as the Modernizing Government Technology Act. Our legislation authorizes the creation of an Information Technology Modernization Fund to use an innovative financing structure to fund major system upgrades across the federal government.
“We’re not talking about just upgrading user interface. We’re talking about replacing vulnerable and outdated infrastructure and systems architecture that, in some cases, have not been changed since the 1980’s. And we’re going to do it by emulating best practices from Silicon Valley.
“Bringing in those best practices from the private sector would make an enormous difference in serving our citizens and streamlining the way government works. There’s no reason why accessing government services can’t be as easy as catching a ride with Uber or Lyft or shopping on Amazon or Etsy.
“I’m pleased to report that the House passed our bill overwhelmingly in September, with the support of Chairman Jason Chaffetz, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Democratic leaders in this area, including Reps. Elijah Cummings, Gerry Connolly, Robin Kelly, and Ted Lieu.
“Unfortunately, the Senate did not act on it before the end of the 114th Congress. However, the bill will soon be reintroduced in the 115th Congress.
“I am very optimistic that we can pass the bill again swiftly and work with the Senate to move it to the President’s desk. And I believe this is one of those areas where the President and both parties in Congress can come together and get something done.
“Yesterday, the White House announced the creation of the Office of American Innovation, what they are calling a ‘swat-team’ of consultants from the private sector to identify ways to streamline the federal government and make it more responsive. While we have yet to see whether this will be a good faith effort to make government work better and not just another ploy to dismantle government agencies, it speaks to the potential for cooperation between congress and the Administration to implement some of the policies enshrined in our bill.
“Furthermore, our legislation would build on some of the critical steps the Obama Administration took to improve government technology by bringing innovators and new ideas into government service. One of the most successful efforts by the Obama Administration was the creation of the U.S. Digital Service and the G.S.A.’s 18-F program. I visited the 18-F program in San Francisco and was very impressed with the talented individuals giving their time to the project of developing innovative ideas for making government technology more effective and responsive.
“I was proud to work with Majority Leader McCarthy, Rep. Hurd, and California Democratic Rep. Mark DeSaulnier to pass the Talent Act this January, which was the last piece of legislation signed into law by President Obama before he left office and codified the Presidential Innovation Fellows Program he launched.
“Looking back, I believe that the Obama Presidency will be remembered as one of the most transformative in the history of government technology, as it also included the launch of his open data directive, his ‘We the People’ petition platform, and his Cyber National Action Plan. More could have been achieved, I think, if Congress had agreed to his requests to invest more in this area.
“I hope that the new Administration, in its apparent rush to roll back everything the former Administration put in place, will take a serious look at the benefits of these government technology initiatives and choose to continue down a path of embracing innovation.
“And I hope this Congress will make the investment we need to capitalize the fund our bill creates. I also hope that the talented individuals who left lucrative jobs in the private sector to work in government during the Obama years will stay on under the new Administration and continue to serve their country as government technology innovators.
“All of these steps will also help us keep Americans’ data safe. Over the past several months, we’ve all seen how eager foreign cyber-attackers are to strike wherever they can. It is no secret that they wish to gain access to government systems and to the private data that Americans’ entrust to government agencies. We must not allow that to happen.
“That’s one of the reasons why financing major systems upgrades, as the Modernizing Government Technology Act would help us do, must be seen as a critical part of America’s long-term cybersecurity strategy.
“But Congress can’t go it alone. No matter what legislation we enact to authorize and fund investments in modernizing government technology, you will be playing a crucial role. You are some of the most important players when it comes to decision-making about what the government technologies of tomorrow will look like.
“So I encourage you to weigh in with Members of Congress and with the new Administration and help make certain that everyone is on the same page when it comes to recognizing the importance of this endeavor. Your engagement will be instrumental.
“I thank you for holding this summit and for serving as advocates for modernization of information technology across our government. I look forward to continuing this critical work together in the months and years ahead.”