When Congress works
Nearly every day, I pick up this paper and read about gridlock and partisanship gripping Congress. The 24-hour TV news cycle reminds us of it by the second and magazines aren’t much better.
To any extent, they are right. Washington is caught in a partisan bind but at the end of the day, the American people want Congress to do our job, work together and get things done.
It is possible but when we work together, it becomes a footnote of political news or gets buried below the fold on page 36….let’s change that.
There are people in Washington working across the aisle to get big things done through bipartisan cooperation.
Looking for an example? Look no further than the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act which passed the House on Wednesday.
The MGT Act is a bipartisan bill to upgrade the government’s woefully outdated, expensive and vulnerable IT infrastructure. For decades, Congress has thrown good money after bad to preserve and maintain an IT system dating back to before the "Andy Griffith Show". This common sense bill finally allows agencies to come into the 21st century and increase cybersecurity while saving taxpayer dollars.
Getting this bill to the point where it could be passed by voice vote wasn’t easy. It took years of work, a willingness to compromise and a handful of sleepless nights for staff.
Most importantly, it took a shared commitment to actually doing something instead of just talking about doing something. A commitment shared by Information Technology Subcommittee Chairman Will Hurd (R-Texas) and myself in managing the IT subcommittee.
This commitment to actually getting things done is critical because we have a lot of work to do, especially on IT inventory, website accessibility and the cybersecurity workforce.
To support the MGT Act, we need better inventory management so CIOs know what needs ungraded, what can stay and what needs to go. Later this year, I will introduce legislation requiring strong inventory management to close this cybersecurity gap.
When it comes to website access, the government is trapped in the 1990s. It’s inexcusable that more than 40 percent of government websites are inaccessible or incompatible with a smartphone. My Connect to Government Act will fix this.
Finally, we are still lacking a pipeline of qualified cybersecurity and IT professionals. I know this issue is a priority for Chairman Hurd.
Despite the security need and high-paying jobs in this sector, we aren’t training our young people for these rewarding careers. Just 18 percent of AP-accredited high schools offer an AP Computer Science course. We can and must to do better and actually start investing in our young people.
So yes, there is a lot of work ahead of us and there will certainly be a fair number of disagreements, but we’ve got a good start.
The MGT Act is just one small first step in bringing government IT and technology into the 21st century; but its step that’s been unnoticed because gridlock and scandal sale more papers than progress.
Congresswoman Robin Kelly represents Illinois’ 2nd District.