On Inauguration Day, Obama makes innovation fellows program permanent

Obama meets with Presidential Innovation Fellows on Jan. 25, 2013. (White House/Pete Souza)

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In one of his last acts as president, Barack Obama signed a bill Friday focused on bringing innovators and technologists into government.

Obama signed into law the TALENT Act, which will make the Presidential Innovation Fellows program permanent.

The program, which embeds private-sector innovators into federal agencies for a yearlong tour, began in 2012. Fellows — known as PIFs — have contributed to major federal technology projects such as the launch of Data.gov, the Police Data Initiative, Blue Button and the RFP-EZ platform.

The bill passed in the House last July, but the Senate’s companion bill, introduced in November, languished there. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy reintroduced the bill this month, and it passed the House on Jan. 11. The Senate cleared it Tuesday.

[Read more: Bill to codify innovation fellows program passes Senate]

“In an age of tremendous technological advancement, our government must modernize to better serve the American people,” McCarthy, R-Calif., said in a statement on the bill becoming law. “This requires creating opportunities for the best and the brightest in the technology community to serve their country.”

Senate supporters of the legislation included Mark Warner, D-Va., James Lankford, R-Okla., and Cory Booker, D-N.J.

“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,” Booker said in a statement. “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.”

And Warner said in a statement that the program “has already helped us in the effort to create an efficient, innovative and accessible government.”

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