Issa warns against 'gimmicks' at technology field hearings
The chairman of a House committee warned two Democratic members in a letter April 26 to tread lightly if they go ahead with a field hearing near their districts close to election season.
The Oversight and Government Reform Committee has had a standing agreement that field hearings in a member’s district when an election is 45 days away could give the appearance of spending tax money to get votes, wrote Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif), the committee's chairman.
“I hope you can appreciate and agree that while field hearings can play an important role in explaining Congress’ work to communities throughout the year, they are not intended to be used as venues for election season gimmicks,” Issa wrote in a letter to Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Gerry Connolly (D-Va.).
Issa denied Cummings and Connolly’s request for an official committee field hearing in northern Virginia.
Issa copied the letter to Rep. James Lankford, chairman of the committee's Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and Procurement Policy Subcommittee. Cummings and Connolly are the ranking committee and subcommittee members, respectively.
In March, Cummings and Connolly asked Issa to join their hearing, which would dig into the IT community’s needs and priorities. The two have planned an event May 11 in Fairfax, Va., to hear from contractors and government acquisition and IT officials. One focus would be on the Office of Management and Budget’s 25 point plan on reforming IT management. Former Federal CIO Vivek Kundra, along with others at OMB, released the report in December 2010.
Cummings and Connolly also would like to consider the effects of an over-reliance on “low price technically acceptable” contract awards and the challenges facing the government’s acquisition workforce, according to their letter.
In response, Issa wrote that Connolly has not attended any other field hearings the committee has held, even hearings in other Democratic members’ districts. Further, the committee’s last field hearing, held in Brooklyn, N.Y., was interrupted by an “election season-style protest” protesting against Issa’s decision to call the hearing.
“This hearing will allow us to tap the extensive private-sector IT expertise within Northern Virginia and the National Capital region and provide an opportunity for federal officials and our local and state government partners to share their best technology practices,” Connolly said in a statement April 24, announcing the hearing.
Issa was emphatic in his warning: “If you intend to move forward with this as a minority event, I urge you to proceed cautiously,” he wrote.
Cummings and Connolly have reserved the Fairfax County Government Center for the event, scheduled for May 11.
Matthew Weigelt is a former FCW senior writer who covered acquisition and procurement.