The bill follows a bipartisan counterpart in the House.
As the footprint of the General Services Administration’s Centers of Excellence program grows, lawmakers in both chambers are looking to codify the program into law.
The latest push comes in a bipartisan bill put forth July 2 by Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., and mirrors legislation introduced in the House by Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., in February.
The bill, called the Modernization Centers of Excellence Program Act, lays out responsibilities all GSA Centers of Excellence should have and establishes governance models to strengthen the government’s use of modern technologies.
“As technology continues to change and advance, it’s important that the federal government understands the significant impacts it will have on our country, economy, and society,” Portman, who co-chairs the Senate AI Caucus, said in a statement. “Ensuring that our government has the capabilities and expertise to help navigate the impacts of the latest technology will be important in the coming years and decades. This bipartisan legislation will ensure our government agencies have the insight and resources they need to better understand the benefits and pitfalls of this technology.”
In a statement, Hassan stressed the importance Centers of Excellence can have in engaging the private sector, and said her “common-sense legislation” will help “bring the federal government into the 21st century.”
“America’s private sector is consistently at the forefront of innovation and technological advancement – but that has not always been the case within the federal government,” Hassan said. “This bipartisan bill will help federal agencies build relationships with the private sector to modernize their old systems and become more efficient.”
Since launching the Centers of Excellence effort in late 2017, GSA has announced nine partnerships with federal agencies, including four in 2020 alone. Participants include the Food and Drug Administration, Agriculture Department, the Housing and Urban Development Department, the Office of Personnel Management, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Defense Department’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, the Labor Department, the Government Accountability Office, and the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Partnered agencies use the Centers of Excellence program to improve across several areas, including commercial cloud capabilities, contact centers, customer experience, data analytics, infrastructure optimization and artificial intelligence.