OMB Nominee to Prioritize Efficient, Tech-Savvy Government

Neera Tanden testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs committee on her nomination to become the Director of the Office of Management and Budget Feb. 9.

Neera Tanden testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs committee on her nomination to become the Director of the Office of Management and Budget Feb. 9. Ting Shen/AP

Neera Tanden cited cybersecurity as one of her top priorities and pushed for Congress to add to the Technology Modernization Fund.  

President Joe Biden’s nominee to head the Office of Management and Budget, Neera Tanden, prioritized federal IT modernization and more efficient, secure and customer-friendly government service delivery Tuesday.

Speaking during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee, Tanden spoke at length about the government’s aging IT infrastructure, and the inefficiencies and security concerns promulgated by outdated tech. Tanden referenced the recent breach of multiple government systems through a third-party software vendor as a major challenge she would be positioned to address—if confirmed—as the head of the federal government’s policy shop.

“One of my top priorities would be to work on the issue of cybersecurity and do so with this committee,” Tanden said in an exchange with Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H.

Tanden advocated for increased funding from Congress for the Technology Modernization Fund, or TMF, which Biden’s COVID-19 relief package initially included. The influx of cash agencies can borrow for IT projects is necessary “because we recognize the importance of this modernization,” Tanden said.

Tanden further stressed the importance of improving customer experience across federal agencies. She cited several instances, including small businesses struggling to troubleshoot issues with COVID-19 relief funds, when the government isn’t as “consumer-friendly” as leading private-sector organizations. In exchanges with Sens. Jacky Rosen, D-N.V., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, she discussed the potential for artificial intelligence tools and related technologies, like chat bots, to improve government operations. However, she noted tech advancements must ensure users’ “privacy is protected.”

“The irony is that we have these technical innovations” across the nation’s tech and industrial bases but the government doesn’t always implement them internally, Tanden said. “It’s also important that we make our government more consumer-friendly … our government can be woefully inefficient and ineffective because we don’t really use technology effectively.”

Tanden further committed to working with the Senate in addressing the dearth of cyber talent in federal ranks. She pointed to the U.S. Digital Service—a tech fix-it shop housed within OMB—as evidence that top cyber and tech talent can be attracted to public service.

“I absolutely commit to working with you on this,” Tanden told Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich. 

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