Congress faces full year

IT not a top priority, but tech issues are still pervasive

With a cash-strapped budget and another possible war on the horizon, Congress faces big challenges this year in molding information technology policies — from homeland security to procurement reform.

Two new committee chairmen will dominate IT issues, and a new panel will scrutinize the creation of the Homeland Security Department, which will be located initially in Washington, D.C. Money will be tight, and lawmakers' attention could be diverted by global crises.

"IT won't be at the top of the priority list because we have such a long laundry list," said Norman Ornstein, congressional scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. "War and other defense expenses are going way up, [and] a prescription drug benefit for seniors and the budget" are other top priorities.

Money will be the big IT issue, but so will a range of policy debates, including the ban on Internet taxation expiring in the fall, trade policy, digital copyright, telecom reforms and privacy, not to mention integrating government systems.

"Congress passed the Homeland Security Department, but everyone pretended it was a costless exercise," said Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America. Integrating "22 agencies and federal, state and local systems will cost money."

Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.), new chairman of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, will oversee the building of the department. He will be a major voice on whether plans to integrate those federal agencies will work.

Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, "our most important job is protecting American citizens," Cox said. "I will work to make our government more effective in the fight against terrorism. I will ensure that it is done efficiently and that Congress and the federal government work together toward this common goal."

Congress already plans to adjust the Homeland Security Act. Those changes include more money for first responders to develop better communications networks and interoperability with nearby communities and the federal government. Lawmakers also want better border security, using technology to do it and tougher regulations for both importing and exporting cargo.

But the devil is always in the details, and battle lines already are drawn over policy and politics.

"Congress has a full IT agenda this year," said David Nadler, Washington lawyer and IT expert. "I expect to see significant budget battles as the [White House] moves to bolster homeland security and national defense. Similarly, Congress will be asked to appropriate substantial dollars to implement the new E-Government Act, and agencies will also seek added funding as outsourcing expands under the new A-76 rules."

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) now leads the House Government Reform Committee, where he has promised a new agenda for procurement reform (see story, Page 68). Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is the new chairwoman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee; she has vowed to make privacy a top concern.

With President Bush proposing a $59 billion IT budget in fiscal 2004 — a 12 percent increase over fiscal 2003 — Congress will have plenty of opportunity to buy badly needed computer systems throughout the government.

"It will be a robust year for IT," said Larry Allen, executive vice president of the Coalition for Government Procurement.

But much of the congressional attention will be directed to issues that directly affect homeland security — including privacy and mining information about Americans from an array of databases. Not wasting any time, senators took the first steps last week to stop a controversial Pentagon project that would gather information on Americans to search for potential terrorists.

Total Information Awareness (TIA) is a computer system the Pentagon is developing that can collect massive amounts of personal information from around the world and analyze data on everyday transactions. Former Navy Adm. John Poindexter, a controversial figure from the Reagan administration's Iran-contra scandal, is directing the program that members of both political parties want to halt.

Sens. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and John Corzine (D-N.J.), speaking at a press conference earlier this month, said the project is untested and cannot be trusted not to violate Americans' rights. Corzine called it "Orwellian" and said it is illegal to snoop on innocent Americans. They introduced legislation on Jan. 16 to put a moratorium on TIA until Congress investigates it.

Wyden and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) also introduced legislation to stop federal money from flowing to TIA except for foreign intelligence purposes. The bill would also prohibit the gathering of data on American citizens.

Although it may be a controversial year for technology, it will also be a good one, many experts predict.

"I think you have a very tech- friendly Congress and an administration, particularly within the Office of Management and Budget, that understands technology," said Douglas Sabo, director of government relations for Network Associates Technology Inc., a network security company.

***

The Congressional agenda

The 108th Congress will deal with many issues, including the following:

* Homeland security — Lawmakers will tinker with the Homeland Security Act, toughening standards and finding more money for programs to protect U.S. citizens.

* Money — President Bush is proposing a $59 billion information technology budget for fiscal 2004, but it will take months to get money bills through Congress. Lawmakers are still trying to finish the fiscal 2003 budget, which includes $52 billion for IT.

* Privacy — Lawmakers will try to protect Americans from being spied on by the government. First up is a proposed moratorium on the Total Information Awareness project, which would gather information, such as credit card transactions and motor vehicle records, from databases.

* Oversight — Congress will oversee the Homeland Security Department's development, the E-Government Act of 2002 and the Federal Information Security Management Act, which requires agencies to use information-security best practices.

* Procurement and civil service reform — Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), new chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, will examine how the government buys services and products. He also wants to revamp the Senior Executive Service.

NEXT STORY: Cities win digital divide grants

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.