The House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress approved a dozen recommendations to improve the continuity of operations in Congress in the event of a crisis.

The Select Committee, which had 29 recommendations adopted by the House on March 10 just days before much of the Federal government transitioned to remote work, produced new recommendations based on the experience of the pandemic.

“These recommendations bring more certainty to our operations and will help the legislative branch continue operating at its best for the American people,” said Select Committee Chair Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., and Select Committee Vice Chair  Tom Graves, R-Ga., in a statement. “Especially when facing a crisis, Congress needs to be working effectively and efficiently to get the job done for our constituents.”

The recommendations are:

  • “Each office should have a continuity of operations plan, including minimum safety requirements and an emergency communications plan, that is made available to all staff so offices continue functioning for the public.
  • Ensure that staff have the most up-to-date technology and equipment to continue effectively working on behalf of constituents in the event of a disruption or emergency.
  • Establish regular maintenance plans for office technology, so the equipment and technology needed during remote operations and telework is functional.
  • Crisis communications guidelines for constituent communication, including outreach plans for extended telework periods, should be approved and shared with all Member offices.
  • To help streamline casework requests and help constituents better access federal agencies and resources, the House should implement a secure document management system, and provide digital forms and templates for public access.
  • The House should prioritize the approval of platforms that staff need for effective telework, and each individual staff member should have licensed access to the approved technology.
  • Committees should establish telework policies on a bipartisan basis.
  • The House should make permanent the option to electronically submit committee reports.
  • Expand the use of digital signatures for a majority of House business, including constituent communications.
  • Committees should develop bipartisan plans on how technology and innovative platforms can be best incorporated into daily work.
  • A bipartisan, bicameral task force should identify lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic and recommend continuity of Congress improvements.
  • Continuity, telework, and cybersecurity training should be given to all new members of Congress.”
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Dwight Weingarten
Dwight Weingarten
Dwight Weingarten is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.