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President Obama Signs Senator Lankford Bill Into Law Before Leaving Office

WASHINGTON, DC – In one of his final acts as President of the United States, President Obama today signed into law a bill introduced by Senator James Lankford (R-OK). The President signed the TALENT Act, bipartisan legislation to codify the Presidential Innovation Fellows program, making permanent a pathway for government to attract experienced technology entrepreneurs and innovators to public service. The bill, H.R. 39, mirrors legislation introduced in the Senate (S. 2972) by Lankford and Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Mark Warner (D-VA). This was President Obama’s final bill signed into law. 

The Presidential Innovation Fellows program was established in 2012 to bring the innovation economy into government by pairing talented, diverse technologists, entrepreneurs, and innovators with top civil-servants and change-makers within the federal government to tackle some our nation’s biggest challenges.

“I’m pleased that the Talent Act has been signed into law,” said Lankford. “This law will play a part in helping improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our federal workforce. It was a pleasure to work with Senator Warner and Senator Booker on this, and I appreciate the efforts of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who authored the companion bill in the House.”

“This program provides an opportunity for this country’s top talent to bring their diverse and innovative experience to the federal workforce, without displacing change-makers within government. As a former telecommunications executive, I know how difficult and bureaucratic it can be for government to adapt to new changes in technology, productivity, and data management,” said Senator Warner. “I’m pleased that before leaving office President Obama was able to enshrine into law a program that has already helped us in the effort to create an efficient, innovative, and accessible government. I look forward to seeing the lasting impact that the Presidential Innovation Fellows will have in developing a culture of innovation, accountability, and trust in the public sector.”

“By signing this bipartisan bill into law, President Obama took an important step toward ensuring that the federal government continues to strengthen its collaborative efforts with innovators and entrepreneurs while improving efficiency and accountability,” said Senator Booker. “The Presidential Innovation Fellows Program is a unique and effective way to engage civil servants and technologists to work together in public service for the good of the American people.”

The program is administered as a partnership between the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the White House Office of Management and Budget, and the General Services Administration. Fellows serve for between 6 and 24 months, during which they collaborate with each other and federal agency partners on high-profile initiatives aimed at saving lives, saving taxpayer money, fueling job creation, and building a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation within government. The program does not create any new funding obligations, and agencies requesting a fellow reimburse GSA for both direct and indirect costs incurred by the program.

In a letter sent last year to Congressional leadership, a wide range of innovators and technology leaders endorsed the legislation, including Ron Conway, Dan Doctoroff, Craig Newmark, Tim O’Reilly, Shervin Pishevar, and Ev Williams. They wrote, “By codifying the Presidential Innovation Fellows Program, the TALENT Act will ensure that this innovative program continues to provide fresh thinking and cutting-edge expertise to our 21st century federal government. We urge the Senate to take up and pass the legislation this work period.”

Lankford serves as chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management, which has jurisdiction over the federal workforce.