Second Round of Recommendations - Staffing, Technology and Accessibility in Congress

Last Action: 
Thursday, July 25, 2019

Streamline and Reorganize House Human Resources

Update policies and consolidate the multitude of offices that offer administrative support to members and staff to provide a one-stop shop to aid members and staff with recruitment, retention, diversity, legal counsel, training and benefits in their offices.

  1. Recommendation: Create a one-stop shop Human Resources HUB dedicated to Member, committee, and leadership (MCL) staff. Led by an HR Deputy Director and comprised of existing offices and staff of the House, the office will be responsible for assisting MCL offices to improve the recruitment and retention of a diverse workforce, develop best practices that can be utilized by offices, and provide recommendations for competitive compensation and benefits to House staff.
  2. Recommendation: Make permanent the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
  3. Recommendation: Examine the viability of updating the staff payroll system with the goal of transitioning from monthly to semimonthly pay.
  4. Recommendation: Raise the cap on the number of permanent staff and additional staff allowed to work in Member offices.
  5. Recommendation: Regularly survey staff on ways to improve pay, benefits, and quality of life.

Overhaul the Onboarding Process and Provide Continuing Education for Members

Going hand in hand with human resources reform, Members have identified a need to make the onboarding process a nonpartisan environment that also smooths the process of setting up their offices and spaces out training on a “just-in-time” basis so that the newly elected are not overwhelmed with more information than they can retain. Furthermore, returning Members should have continuing education to learn and/or refresh their training.

  1. Recommendation: Through the Office of the Clerk, newly-elected Members should have the option to hire and pay one transition staff member for the duration of the time between when they are elected and are sworn in.
  2. Recommendation: Orientation courses and services should be available to all new Members (including those incoming from a special election) and presented in a nonpartisan way.
  3. Recommendation: Orientation should be reimagined and reorganized to offer a “just in time” approach where appropriate.
  4. Recommendation: Offer a course in the new Member orientation and ongoing education portal to instruct Members on the House Rules of Decorum and Debate, and other practices to promote civility and respect.
  5. Recommendation: Create a pilot Congressional Leadership Academy for Members which offers professional development and institutional training.
  6. Recommendation: Make cybersecurity training mandatory for Members.

Modernize and Revitalize House Technology

Modernize House technology resources to keep the institution on the cutting edge and emphasize quality IT services to reduce reliance on outside vendors, improve constituent engagement, leverage bulk purchasing power and save taxpayer dollars.

  1. Recommendation: Reestablish an improved Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) to study and recommend emerging technologies, provide nonpartisan information and policy analysis to Member offices, support legislative branch agencies in their examination of new technologies, focus on general oversight and policy, and facilitate peer reviews of potential new technologies.
  2. Recommendation: Reform House Information Resources (HIR) by partnering with outside entities to develop a roadmap for addressing the root cause of HIR’s systemic inability to deliver enterprise programs and IT services in a timely manner that satisfies Member office needs.
  3. Recommendation: Require HIR to, as soon as practicably possible, allow the following:
    1. Video calls from Member and staff mobile devices or computers (ex: use applications such as Facetime or Skype).
    2. In conjunction with the Clerk’s office, allow secure e-signatures for letters, bills and constituent consent forms;
    3. Set up a VPN on any device and develop relevant security guidelines;
    4. Constituents to upload casework and requests digitally through a Member’s website.
  4. Recommendation: Require HIR to create an approval process for outside vendors developing new technologies that is transparent, scheduled and timely.
  5. Recommendation: HIR should create a program that allows Member offices to opt-in to beta test new technologies.
  6. Recommendation: Creating one point of contact for each Member office within HIR who would be responsible for all technology points of contact, including technology, telecom, web, district office technologies, etc.
  7. Recommendation: Create a customer satisfaction portal on HouseNet that allows Members and staff to rate and review outside vendors and HIR services.
  8. Recommendation: The CAO should leverage the bulk purchasing power of the House and provide a standard suite of quality, up-to-date devices and software, such as desktop and laptop computers, tablets, printers, mobile phones and desk phones at no cost to the MRA.
  9. Recommendation: The Congressional Research Service should prioritize a “rapid response” program for nonpartisan fact sheets on key issues and legislation under consideration in Congress.
  10. Recommendation: Develop a nonpartisan constituent engagement and services best practices page on HouseNet.

Make the House Accessible to all Americans

All proceedings and functions of the House, including all those online, must be accessible to Americans with disabilities.

  1. Recommendation: Scan and analyze all House websites and apps to determine the accessibility level of each congressional website, and provide resources and assistance to ensure all systems are compatible with common programs used by major disability groups.
  2. Recommendation: Require all House proceedings that are broadcast on TV or streamed on the internet to provide closed caption services, and provide a free captioning service for all web videos created by MCL offices.
  3. Recommendation: Require a comprehensive review of the Capitol grounds to determine accessibility challenges for individuals with disabilities conducted by the Architect of the Capitol, Sergeant at Arms, and the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights and implement a remediation plan.
116th Congress