Setting an agenda for the 2nd term

Despite the departure from Congress of several strong champions of procurement reform vendors and government managers believe that the new leaders of congressional oversight committees will continue on the path of the last several years and will push for agencies to adopt commercial business practices prescribed by the new laws.

It is not certain who will head the committees after the retirements of Rep. William Clinger (R-Pa.) and Sen. William Cohen (R-Maine) the leaders of the reform movement during the last session of Congress. But observers expect relative newcomers to the issue such as Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) to step into influential roles. "A lot of the patrons of procurement oversight and reform are gone " said Don Upson vice president of strategic programs at Litton/PRC Inc. "On the other hand I think the No. 1 priority of industry and government is the effective implementation of the new laws.

"I think our industry because we have a voice on Capitol Hill is more organized than it ever has been and appreciates the importance of this " he said. "There is an opportunity to have an impact with some of the new leadership that has emerged."

A spokesman for Burton the most likely candidate to succeed Clinger as chairman of the Government Reform and Oversight Committee said the congressman is interested in taking over as chairman of the committee and has "made himself familiar with the [procurement] issues" that the committee has focused on under Clinger.

The spokesman also said Burton planned to make staff changes on the committee if appointed chairman but he would not comment specifically.

Although Burton was not in the limelight during most of the committee's procurement actions in the last Congress his role will change dramatically as committee chairman. Ken Salaets director of government affairs at the Information Technology Industries Council said Burton's strong conservatism "bodes well for procurement."

Al Burman former administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy and now vice president of Jefferson Strategic Marketing said Burton is interested in outsourcing and may focus on that issue particularly as it pertains to NASA and the Defense Department. Industry sources said they expect Davis also a member of the House committee to be the House's real leader on IT procurement issues.

Upson said he expects Davis to serve as the House's "linchpin" on IT procurement acting as a leader to bring other members into the act.

On the Senate side there is strong speculation that Thompson will take over leadership of the Governmental Affairs Committee. Thompson who came to office in the 1992 elections also has little experience in procurement and IT issues though he did sponsor an amendment to this year's appropriations bill later withdrawn that would have made the General Services Administration's FTS 2000 telecom services available to state and local governments.

A Thompson staff member said the senator would take up that issue again in the next session.

Other key players likely to keep the reform ball rolling include Sen. Ted Stevens (R- Alaska) the former Governmental Affairs chairman who will most likely take over as chairman of Senate Appropriations. In the past year Stevens has been critical of the Internal Revenue Service's Tax Systems Modernization effort and GSA's Post-FTS 2000 program and is likely to take those concerns with him to the Appropriations Committee. Observers also suspect freshman Collins an aide to Cohen from 1975 to 1987 shares many of the interests of her former boss.

Despite their high hopes for the incoming leadership most vendors agree there will be little in the way of new legislation in the next Congress.

"With the unprecedented amount of procurement legislation in the last two Congresses we will not see more legislation " said Olga Grkavac vice president of systems integration at the Information Technology Association of America. "We will see Congress playing an oversight role."

- Allan Holmes contributed to this article.

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