Procurement reform bill passes committee

Despite complaints from advocacy groups that they've had too little time to review new provisions, the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act has cleared its first hurdle.

capitol dome

IT industry groups have warned members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that they did not have enough time to fully inspect several new provisions added to the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act, but on March 20 the committee nonetheless approved the bill after a brief markup session. (Read the bill.)

Committee members emphasized they are still open to, and expect, reforms to the legislation, including from industry. Yet they also said it was time to push FITARA into the next phase.

"The window of feedback is not shut. I expect this legislation to undergo further refinement," said committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). "But it is time to advance the bill to the next stage."

FITARA (H.R. 1232) would give more budgetary authority and responsibility to the CIO to engage in portfolio-wide IT governance and budget planning. It would reinforce the Clinger-Cohen Act, which created the CIO position, by requiring that 16 presidentially appointed CIOs have a direct reporting link to the head of their agency. While now each agency has numerous positions titled CIO, there is no center of responsibility, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said.

In addition, the bill would also change how agencies buy technology and emphasize better ways of buying IT, such as cadres of acquisition specialists and drives for strategic sourcing.

A group of industry organizations raised concerns March 19 in a letter to the committee, saying they needed more time to review a number of new provisions in the bill. Issa introduced FITARA March 18 with changes and updates from the initial draft bill, although many were based on comments and testimony before the committee. Issa released a draft version is September to gather comments and hold hearings on the proposal.

The letter, signed by six organizations, read in part: "Several significant portions of the proposal are entirely new text and have never before been seen and warrant significant additional review and discussion." They added too that several provisions appear redundant and duplicative—which in part the bill is aiming to eliminate—because they restate authorities and responsibilities that are already in law. (Read the letter.)

The groups that signed onto the letter are TechAmerica, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Information Technology Industry Council, the Coalition for Government Procurement, BSA/The Software Alliance, and the Association for Competitive Technology (ACT).

FITARA now awaits consideration by the full House, though no timetable for floor consideration has been publicly discussed.

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