A new House Digital Services team with a wide-ranging remit to improve user experience in Congress and expand the ability of lawmakers to interact with their constituents is expected to start work this summer, FedScoop understands.
Sources speaking to this publication said the unit will at first consist of a small group of technologists and fellows, and will be based within the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer at the House of Representatives.
Details of the proposed launch timeline follow a recruitment drive by the CAO office last month, which has sought to fill new engineering, design and product manager roles as it establishes the team.
HDS is tasked with building intuitive solutions that improve on member offices’ most significant challenges. It comes after nonprofit groups, like TechCongress and others, have for years looked to inject tech talent into Congress through digital service fellowships.
During the pandemic, lawmakers were forced to adopt new practices such as tele-consultations with constituents. Improving their ability to work digitally remains a bipartisan priority.
The decision to establish HDS was announced by House Chief Administrative Officer Catherine Szpindor in testimony at a meeting of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress in January. It is intended to emulate entities such as the U.S. Digital Service and 18F, which have had success bringing agile development methodologies into federal government.
Proposals to create a digital service for the legislative branch of Congress have been floated for several years, including in 2017, when lawmakers penned unsuccessful legislation to mandate the creation of such a team.
Currently, nonprofit TechCongress places computer scientists, engineers and other technologists to serve as technology policy advisors to members of Congress through the Congressional Innovation Fellowship.
A core focus of HDS is to improve the quality of advice and digital solutions that lawmakers receive by creating a full-time staff of technology experts.
Since the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress issued a landmark report focused on revitalizing the efficiency and transparency in October 2020, the House administration has worked to introduce solutions including an e-signature program for members and committees to share official letters, known as Quill, and systems for the electronic submission of bills and committee reports.