GOP leader pushes to preserve Obama’s tech fellow program

GOP leader pushes to preserve Obama’s tech fellow program
© Greg Nash

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is pushing a bill to protect one of President Obama’s tech priorities after he leaves office. 

The GOP leader’s bill would put the force of law behind Obama’s 2012 Presidential Innovation Fellows Program, which brings on a small number of tech-savvy employees from the private sector every year and places them around the government for short stints of service. 

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Obama already signed an executive order last year making the program permanent. At the time, he said he hoped the program would help build “a government that’s as modern, as innovative, and as engaging as our incredible tech sector is.”

While unlikely in the case of the fellows program, executive orders can always be undone by the next administration. That is not the case with legislation signed into law. 

The program was part of a 2008 campaign promise from Obama and was created with the help of former White House chief technology officer Todd Park. 

Housed in the General Services Administration, the program has brought on around 100 fellows since its creation in 2012. It has recruited people from The New York Times, Google, Shutterstock, healthcare companies and the popular online weather service Weather Underground. 

A number of those fellows have gone on to become the chief technology officers of various federal agencies and policy advisers around the government. 

Under McCarthy’s bill, the program would stay under the control of the GSA and would include a director to select fellows and an advisory board to help recommend priorities. The legislation would not put a cap on the number of fellows and would require that fellows serve between six months and two years.