White House Seeks Input on Reskilling Feds and Upgrading Agency Services

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As part of its government reorganization, the administration wants advice on how to establish the tech-focused GEAR Center.

The White House on Monday invited industry and academia to help devise a strategy for building and maintaining a research center for reskilling federal employees and improving citizen services across government.

The Government Effectiveness Advanced Research, or GEAR, Center would bring together experts from a wide range of fields to come up with innovative ways for agencies to bring outdated services into the 21st century.

Proposed under the Trump administration’s federal reorganization plan, the private-public partnership aims to speed up the government’s adoption of new technologies and bring customer service best practices from industry to agencies. The center’s findings would be used to design and roll out initiatives across the executive branch.

“Today’s government is outdated and proven to adapt more slowly than the private sector, and has fallen behind the curve,” the White House wrote in the request for information. “The inability to adapt has likely contributed to the federal government’s failures to meet expectations and resulted in less than optimal use of resources. Moreover, the Government’s reliance on outdated technology has led to a workforce insufficiently equipped to transition to more modern ways of doing business.”

According to the RFI, the GEAR Center would initially focus its efforts in two key areas: building a more tech-savvy federal workforce and opening up more federal data to the private sector.

The White House argues advanced technologies will only impact government if employees have enough training to use them, and it made reskilling the federal tech workforce a central focus of the President’s Management Agenda. Officials requested details on what types training and adult learning programs have shown the most success in the private sector and how the GEAR Center could begin developing similar initiatives at federal agencies.

Officials have also repeatedly highlighted the positive impact open data initiatives can make on the economy and government services. They noted the center would look for ways to improve data quality and governance across agencies to help industry better take advantage of federal information.

The administration has yet to determine whether the GEAR Center will be a physical institution, a network of experts working together remotely, or an office attached to a university or think tank. In the RFI, officials asked industry to weigh in on the benefits of different operating models and what government’s role in the center should be, as well as propose different strategies for funding the center in the long term.

The White House plans to provide funding to stand up the center, but it would need outside money to keep it up and running in the long run, officials said. They asked respondents to include sustainable funding strategies in their proposals. Responses are due Sept. 14.