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United States Senate WASHINGTON, DC 20510 April 1, 2015 The Honorable Roy Blunt ‘The Honorable Charles Schumer Chairman Ranking Member ‘Committee on Rules and Administration Committee on Rules and Administration United States Senate United States Senate Washington, DC 20510 Washington, DC 20510 Dear Chairman Blunt and Ranking Member Schumer: Thank you for your leadership on establishing and enforcing rules and protocol for the Senate. We share ‘your respect for the customs of the Senate and want to work with you to find opportunities to expand the scope, efficiency, and reach of constituent services in a way that best preserves those customs. New technology is changing the way we all live and work, and we have exciting opportunities to hamess new tools in the Senate to improve our work with constituents. Innovation in government is not a Democrat issue or a Republican issue; it is an American issue. Pursuant to our shared commitment to exemplary public service, we are writing to bring to your attention several opportunities we have identified to update the Rules of the Senate pertaining to new technology. These opportunities include proposals developed to allow for innovation, consistent with best practices in the private sector. Our aim is to remove unnecessary barriers to technological creativity while best serving constituents and saving taxpayer resources New technology guidance stead of adapting offline rules: 1, Update the use of email “newsletters” so that they are easier to develop and better supported — Bulk email messages sent to opt-in subscribed constituents are an important and distinct tool for communicating, and they should not be treated as simply an electronic extension of paper mail. To better reflect the distinction between email and paper mail, the following rules for email communication that were based on paper mail rules, we ask you to consider: implifying the vendor approval process to encourage more competition in the market of approved mass-mailing vendors to help small businesses, startups, and businesses owned by women and minorities break through the barriers to participation they face; b. Revising the definition of valid uses of surveys and petitions; and c. Revisiting rules governing the use of images and language We recommend simplifying and streamlining the process for new technology product vendors to become approved for use by Senate offices. Instead of adapting rules for email that were originally written for mail newsletters, we recommend writing entirely new guidelines to fit the unique uses of email as a communications tool. 2, Allow third-party analytics products to track social media and news statistics ~ Senate offices wish to evaluate social media statistics and press mentions to chart growth, test, and improve their responsiveness in online communications with constituents. We recommend that the Senate classify collection and evaluation of social media statistics as a communications tool, similar to how the Senate classifies the collection and analysis of website visit statistics. The current guidelines prohibit Senate offices from collecting information that will allow them to evaluate the effectiveness of their communications programs. Reconsider technical restrictions to better serve constituents with accountability and transparency: 3. Save taxpayer dollars 4 Continue with progress on new standards to publish more Senate data in bulk — The United States Senate collects legislative data on bills introduced, committee proceedings, and floor activity. Recently, the Senate began publishing text and summary information for legislation in standardized, machine-readable bulk Extensible Markup Language (XML) format. This is an important step for making information on our work in the Senate accessible to the public. We ask you to consider important next steps to continue our momentum on transparency and public accountability: a. Creation of a Senate equivalent to Docs.House.gov, which keeps a running snapshot of the legislative action on the House floor and in Committees. Bill statuses, amendment text and amendment status in XML are essential to providing useful data to Congressional observers. b. Getting committee testimony and transcripts in XML format, instead of PDF format. ¢. Establishment of a unified XML file listing information on all senators; for example name, address, class, seniority rank, committee assignments, leadership positions and sworn-in dates. Creation of this file is a relatively simple step and would provide important linkages to other Senate data. d. Adapting the Congressional Record into XML format, With these steps, third-party programmers ~ such as journalists or entrepreneurs — could build innovative tools that make the work of the Senate more accessible and understandable by the public. The burst of civic-minded innovation that would accompany bulk data publishing would make information more accessible to observers, introducing new accountability, public accessibility and transparency to the work of the Senate. new technology: Options for servers hosting constituent data could include virtual servers - Today, the servers hosting constituent data (commonly-known as CSS servers) are housed on individual server machines. However, outside the Senate, virtual cloud-based server environments are industry standard — they are less expensive, more secure, and more reliable. Virtual cloud-based server environments host some of the most sensitive information in the world because they are less vulnerable to many security threats than individual single-box servers. Nearly every federal agency, including the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. State Department, the General Services Administration, the U.S. Courts, and the U.S. Department of the Treasury, has operated using an external cloud for years. These agencies have accomplished secure private data storage through use of encryption technology and regular security audits — the Senate could do the same. Senate offices could save thousands of taxpayer dollars every year and keep constituent data secure and private by utilizing cloud-based virtual servers. Mirror United States House rules to include digital franking under Commission on Congressional Mailing Standards ~ To promote events and official constituent services work, ‘Senate offices are permitted to solicit “earned” media of press promotion; but unlike House offices, they are not permitted to use paid media in newspapers or on the Internet. The use of digital franking would allow Senate offices to more effectively reach constituents seeking assistance with federal government services, and would drive attendance at public forums that deliver needed resources. Allowing digital franking could save taxpayer dollars: targeting techniques commonly used in online paid media can reach constituents who need government service at lower cost. 6. Support and encourage website development on more platforms ~ As the Internet has developed, flexible open-source content management systems have flourished; however, many of the most popular and secure tools available have not been approved for use. Tools such as Wordpress, the most popular and flexible web-based system to control the back-ends of websites, are powerful, secure, and easy to use — but are unfortunately blocked from use in the Senate. We recommend the Committee review and approve the most widely-used, stable and secure web- based content management solutions with deliberate haste. Taking these steps would save taxpayer resources and improve product offerings through competition. 7. Simplify contracting rules for product vendors ~ Contracting rules could be more acces new entrants, and the contracting process should be paced to run its course more quickly, especially for small projects. Small businesses, startup companies, and companies owned by ‘women and minorities currently face steep barriers to entry. Opening up the contracting process by simplifying steps for consideration of approval would create a dynamic, competitive marketplace, which would save taxpayer money and improve product offerings. ‘The above recommendations would help update Senate services to 21st-century technology and better connect members with their constituents, while also saving taxpayer dollars. We would welcome an opportunity to discuss the challenges posed and opportunities presented for innovation in the Senate. ‘Thank you for your leadership. We look forward to working with you to adapt to new innovations and. technoiogy. If you have any questions, please contact Sam Drzymala at 202-224-3224. Sincerely, Cory A. Booker Claire McCaskill United States Senator United States Senator