White House Expects to Stand Up GEAR Center in 2019

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But most other key aspects of the modernization research center are up in the air.

The White House wants to instill a startup mentality within its proposed government modernization research center and is encouraging participants “to not be afraid to fail,” according to the administration’s management chief.

But she offered few details on how the organization would actually be structured.

“We want to be smart and quick in standing this up,” said Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director Margaret Weichert, referring to the administration’s proposed Government Effectiveness Advanced Research Center. “So [in] everything we do, I want to have the agile mentality not just to do things quickly but to show results … to continuously learn from challenges and mistakes. That’s where innovation comes from.”

The GEAR Center would serve act as a public-private partnership for researching ways government can speed up the adoption of new technologies and bring improve citizen services. Weichert said the center’s initial focus areas would be workforce reskilling and data management, as well as other aspects of IT modernization.

On Tuesday, she and other White House officials gave a broad overview of responses they received to the solicitation on the center they released in July.

Weichert said she’s “very heartened” by the responses that were submitted, but many key questions about how the center will be organized remain unanswered.

For instance, it’s still unclear whether the center would be a centralized, government-run enterprise or a dispersed collection of industry and academic experts working on projects with limited input from federal leaders.

Officials also offered few details on how the organization would receive funding. The White House plans to provide a few million dollars of seed funding in fiscal 2019, they said, but it’s still exploring ways to incentivize industry and academic experts to participate in the program. Weichert said it’s critical everyone has “skin in the game,” but gave little insight about how that mechanism will work.

However, she confirmed the White House still plans to stand up the center sometime in 2019, and noted officials are still accepting input on the project from outside groups.