House bill would codify IT Modernization Centers of Excellence

Reps. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., and Mark Meadows, R-N.C., introduced the bipartisan bill Thursday.
Rep. Mark Meadows (Gage Skidmore / Flickr)

Reps. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., and Mark Meadows, R-N.C., introduced a bill Thursday that would make the General Services Administration’s IT Modernization Centers of Excellence program a permanent fixture.

The lawmakers call the Modernization Centers of Excellence Program Act a “light touch” codification of the existing initiative, which helps agency clients undertake IT modernization projects in the five subject matter areas of artificial intelligence, cloud adoption, contact center, customer experience, data and analytics and infrastructure optimization.

“Congress should take every opportunity possible to make government more effective and efficient as we work to better serve Americans everywhere,” Meadows said in a statement. “By bringing the best of private sector innovation to the federal government’s IT systems, these Centers of Excellence will allow agencies to better communicate with the Americans they serve, all while saving the taxpayer tens of millions by making agencies more efficient.”

The bill would give the CoE’s five key responsibilities:

  • Modernize IT and how a customer interacts with an executive agency
  • Improve cooperation between commercial and executive agency IT sectors
  • Assist executive agencies with planning and adoption of a more efficient commercial cloud computing system, tools to help Americans receive support from and communicate with an executive agency; contact centers and other related customer supports; efficient use of data management, analysis, and reporting; and optimized infrastructure, including for data centers, and to reduce operating costs.
  • Share best practices and expertise with executive agencies
  • Other responsibilities that GSA’s director of Technology Transformation Services may identify as necessary

The CoE concept, which aims to “accelerate” IT modernization across government by creating central repositories for “best practices” that can move from agency to agency, was first discussed by the White House in summer 2017 and then formally introduced in the fall of 2017. “The ultimate objective of the CoEs is to build change management capacity for enterprise-level change in the federal government,” White House special assistant Matt Lira told FedScoop in December 2018.

While the concept grew out of the White House Office of American Innovation, it is currently housed under GSA’s Technology Transformation Services. The CoEs currently work with the Department of Agriculture, Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Office of Personnel Management, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Department of Defense’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC).

CoE leadership says the lessons learned at one agency are generally super applicable to the others, lending the model a certain scalability. “It gets better with size,” executive director Bob DeLuca told FedScoop.

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