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Meet the Fellows 2019: Eric Mill

Large organizations in the United States understand that to survive, they need to know the law, and they need to use that knowledge when making big decisions. Most large organizations intuitively understand that to do that, contracting with an outside law firm would not be enough: they need trusted in-house legal counsel that is part of the senior leadership team -- and the more executives on the leadership team with a bit of legal background, the better! In a nation of laws, legal knowledge is front and center.

But today, we live in more than a nation of laws: we live in a world of technology -- a world that was long ago "eaten" and controlled by software. And unfortunately, most organizations still don't elevate technology and software expertise the way they do legal knowledge. Corporations and government agencies alike keep technologists at arms' length from the leadership table, and commoditize technology by sweeping it into "the IT department" or outsourcing it through contracts.

As the independent "first branch" of government that oversees the affairs of our nation and makes its laws, Congress can't afford to outsource its ability to tell technology fact from buzzword fiction. We need Congress to be competent and literate in the mechanics and software developments that determine the security of our critical infrastructure, the strength of our leadership abroad, and how billions of people will find opportunity and live their lives.

I joined TechCongress as a 2019 fellow so that I could contribute my experience in software, public policy, and cybersecurity to Congress. I spent the last several years applying this experience in the executive branch of the federal government, and I'm proud of the policy changes I got to drive there, and the digital service work I led. It can be profoundly impactful and satisfying to just do the thing and to personally make sure it's done well. However, the executive branch is seriously limited (by design) in the kind of initiatives and policy it's allowed to do. As difficult as coalition-building and well-grounded oversight can be against the backdrop of modern day politics, that's what the work is, and there's no substitute for an independent legislature.

For several years now, I've watched the TechCongress program send highly talented fellows to work in House and Senate offices, some of whom have continued to serve in Congress after their fellowship. I've personally observed their work make a big impact on my own in the executive branch, and they've helped Congress reach the right conclusions on national issues. More generally, TechCongress is part of a vital and growing effort to make sure Congress has real technology expertise throughout the legislative branch. I'm honored for the opportunity to join TechCongress myself this year and to be a part of that effort.