Set-Asides

Axing computer games costly Representatives from the information technology industry said a Senate proposal to remove all computer games from the desktops of federal employees potentially could violate the terms of the Clinger-Cohen Act which requires the government to purchase commercial off-the-shelf products whenever possible.

Olga Grkavac vice president of the Information Technology Association of America's Systems Integration Division said she was concerned that legislation proposed by Sen. Lauch Faircloth (R-N.C.) to remove computer games from computers used by federal employees would create a burden on vendors.

She said such a requirement would run counter to previous congressional recommendations that federal agencies buy the same IT products sold on the commercial market. "We think there is a significant cost factor that Congress should be aware of " she said.

Ken Salaets director of government affairs at the Information Technology Industries Council said the members did not seem especially worried about the Faircloth proposal which has not yet been taken up in the House. *** Rep.: Award IRS workers Legislation introduced in Congress last week to reform the Internal Revenue Service (H.R. 2292) would give the agency more flexibility to reward high-performing workers.

Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) a sponsor of the measure in the House said the provisions could help the IRS to attract more qualified people to manage the new IRS Modernization program. But Portman who co-chaired the special commission that developed the bill said that with a nationwide shortage of information technology workers "the government will always be at a disadvantage in this particular industry" and thus will have to rely more on private contractors that can pay higher salaries.

*** GPO online staff dodges cut A House amendment that would have trimmed the Government Printing Office's GPO Access online information project staff by 10 percent or more than 300 people was defeated last week. Gary Ruskin director of the Congressional Accountability Project said many jobs would have been shaved from newer programs such as GPO Access (www.access.gpo.gov) which went online a little more than three years ago.

The amendment proposed by Rep. Scott Klug (R-Wis.) would have been attached to H.R. 2209 a legislative appropriations bill. ***GAO hits Education integration A General Accounting Office report released last week charges that the Education Department has made only limited progress in integrating its National Student Loan Data System with similar student financial-aid databases.

The NSLDS is a national database designed to track loan and grant data provide information for research and support functions such as the prescreening of financial-aid applicants. The lack of NSLDS integration with other systems is indicative of a larger problem at Education: lack of a clearly defined systems architecture to link major computer systems.

"Without a systems architecture and the ability to easily integrate its systems the department continues to acquire independent systems to support specific student financial-aid programs - programs that cannot easily share information " according to the report which is available online at www.gao.gov/new.items/ai97122.pdf.

"Accordingly the cost of developing and maintaining these stand-alone systems continues to mount " the report stated.

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