Key IT personnel change on Hill
In the wake of new committee leadership several Hill committees began their biennial staff shuffling reflecting new and evolving agendas of the chairmen. The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee last month changed key personnel in procurement reform and information technology oversight a move observers interpreted as a continued commitment that the committee will push policy changes mandated by last year's Clinger-Cohen Act.
Ellen Brown former aide to just-retired congressman William Clinger (R-Pa.) accepted a position as counsel on the Senate committee and will continue with procurement reform work.
Brown will work alongside Bill Greenwalt formerly chief investigator on Governmental Affairs' Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management and the District of Columbia who moves up to the full committee this month. Greenwalt has been credited with writing the first draft of former Sen. William Cohen's Information Technology Management Reform Act. Sources said they expect Greenwalt to focus on agency compliance with that law.
Last year ITMRA was folded into the Clinger-Cohen Act which includes all the recent procurement reform legislation.
Mark Forman the committee staff member who previously oversaw IT-related issues will leave the committee along with others who served former chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). Forman said he would like to return to management consultant work in the private sector but had not yet accepted a new job as of last week. But one insider said members of Stevens' staff have been discussing the possibility of bringing Forman onto the Senate Appropriations Committee now chaired by Stevens.
John Mercer counsel on the Governmental Affairs Committee will also leave the committee this month. Mercer author of the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) could not be reached to discuss his future plans.
Brown who begins her new position today said last week she had met with the new Senate committee chairman Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) but his agenda for procurement issues had not yet been established.Information technology executives were uniformly upbeat about Brown and Greenwalt remaining on the Hill. Ken Salaets director of government affairs at the Information Technology Industries Council said Brown has proved an aggressive enforcer of the provisions of the Clinger-Cohen reforms.
"I think having Ellen somewhere in an influential position bodes well " Salaets said. "She was the linchpin on that whole [procurement reform] effort."
Observers are also heartened by the arrival of Susan Collins (R-Maine) who was elected to fill Cohen's seat. Collins worked as Cohen's staff director and played an essential role in drafting the Competition in Contracting Act. Sources said Collins will chair the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations formerly headed by William Roth (R-Del.).
Collins should bring IT and procurement issues to the forefront said consultant Brien Lorenze a director at the Jefferson Group. "I can't begin to tell you what an asset Susan Collins will be in this area " he said. "Her knowledge of federal procurement is about as high as any senator's."
In another key appointment that could encourage a stronger push toward privatization Ron Utt a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation accepted the position of staff director on the Oversight of Government Management Subcommittee. Utt has been a staunch proponent of privatization having served as director of privatization under President Reagan and he reflects a new ideological direction observers said.
"You can expect [the subcommittee] to look into privatization and outsourcing " Lorenze said. "A-76 will get a solid re-evaluation."
Utt said he will officially start his new job next week and will spend the next two months developing an agenda with the subcommittee's new chairman freshman Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.).
Former chairman Stevens will remain an influential player in the IT arena as chairman of Senate Appropriations. Stevens is certain to weigh in heavily on the Post-FTS 2000 program among other issues.The House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight chaired by Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) is expected to play a smaller role in IT and procurement issues.
Burton hired Bill O'Neill a lobbyist with the Airplane Owners and Pilots Association to fill Brown's previous job as procurement counsel.
Most of the action in these areas will take place at the subcommittee level according to sources and will be spearheaded either by Rep. Steve Horn (R-Calif.) chairman of the Government Management Information and Technology Subcommittee or by Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) chairman of the District of Columbia Subcommittee.
A staff member on Horn's subcommittee said members will focus on the Year 2000 issue as well as enforcement of the Clinger-Cohen Act and the GPRA guiding federal investment in IT.