Randy Hultgren Keeps His Eye on Government Prizes

Reps. Randy Hultgren and Daniel Lipinski are hoping innovation-minded colleagues will join them Tuesday in celebrating the type of forward thinking that cold hard cash tends to inspire. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo) The Illinois lawmakers have signed on to co-chair the bipartisan Congressional Prize Caucus, a support group designed to foster the type of crowd-sourced, incentivized problem solving the administration has generated with its Challenge.gov initiative. By the federal government’s own accounting, Challenge.gov has sponsored more than 430 results-oriented contests since fall 2010. Current projects open to practical troubleshooting include: Making sustainable farming more attractive to agricultural producers. Effectively auditioning for a job with the National Security Agency. Figuring out a way to expedite current North Atlantic right whale identification procedures to assist the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in better tracking the endangered species. (Screenshot) It’s all gold as far as Hultgren is concerned. “I’m a science buff at heart,” the Science, Space and Technology Committee member shared with HOH, adding, “one of my favorite days in Congress was meeting Neil Armstrong before he passed away.” By his estimation, the ongoing hunt for outside-the-box thinking underscores the wisdom of sometimes having pols just get out of the way. “Many private foundations have been able to tackle problems in ways the government can’t always do,” he asserted. Hultgren praised pioneering efforts such as the space flight-centric Ansari XPRIZE competition for spurring young minds to take action — a trend he’d love to see flourish. “Instead of ‘working for someone else’ or learning STEM in the abstract, young people can take the reins and see how their hard work can pay off and improve lives,” he said. Although very much still in the formative stages, the three-term lawmaker left the door open to having CPC promote future competitions. Those interested in taking more immediate action are welcome to pounce on his personal gripe. “I would give a prize to anyone that can get Congress to pass a budget and appropriations bills on time,” Hultgren quipped. The caucus kickoff is scheduled to take place Tuesday in Rayburn B338 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Tickets to the inaugural reception are available via Eventbrite. See photos, follies, HOH Hits and Misses and more at Roll Call's new video site. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.