Today, the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress unanimously approved 12 key recommendations to improve continuity of government and congressional operations. Issue One Executive Director Meredith McGehee issued the following statement:
“Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the modernization committee continues to churn out much-needed recommendations to improve the operations of Congress. This set of bipartisan reforms is especially timely. Americans expect and need leadership in times of national uncertainty. Members must lead by example, demonstrating that they can continue to work safely and fulfill their constitutional duties. Congress cannot be left flat-footed when the next crisis arrives.”
In May, Issue One sent a letter to Congress urging it to establish emergency preparedness plans to maintain smooth operations during a crisis, which the committee today included among its proposals.
The committee included the following recommendations in its package:
- 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.