Senate panel trims TSM funds

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted last week to restore $163 million to the Internal Revenue Service to run its existing information systems but, like the House, put the brakes on the troubled Tax Systems Modernization program.

The panel's $402.5 million proposed budget for TSM, slated for a vote on the Senate floor this week, is $22 million less than that provided by the House. In addition, the committee echoed language in the House bill that would force the IRS to lay off 2,000 employees who work on TSM, all but assuring that the provision will become law.

But the panel rejected other provisions of the House bill, including a controversial plan to transfer responsibility for letting any new TSM contracts to the Defense Department. And where the House would prohibit the IRS from spending any TSM money until it corrects problems with the program, the Senate would let the agency spend all but $66 million.

Another $200 million for information technology not designated for TSM also would be restricted. According to information produced by the committee, the IRS would have money for currently deployed TSM programs but none for development of new systems.

IRS spokeswoman Jodi Patterson said the agency would not comment on pending legislation.

Meanwhile, the committee included in its report accompanying the Treasury, Postal Service and General Government appropriations bill language that would delay release of the solicitation for the Post-FTS 2000 telecommunications procurement until May while the Clinton administration reviews the General Services Administration's acquisition strategy. The report echoes letters from senators and representatives expressing concern that a long-term contract is ill-advised at a time when the telecommunications market is changing rapidly.

In other congressional action on spending measures, the House last week renewed its efforts to kill the administration's Advanced Technology Program, which provides money to the private sector to develop experimental technology projects. An amendment to the appropriations bill for the Commerce Department would prohibit the administration from using any of the $110.5 million appropriated for the program to award new grants.

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