OMB wants sooner cutoff on state/local Y2K buying

House committee members and administration officials today said they generally support a proposed bill that will allow state and local governments to buy Year 2000 products and services off General Services Administration federal supply schedules, but they do not agree on the end date.

Introduced in April by Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), the Year 2000 Compliance Assistance Act would amend the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949 to let state and local governments purchase Year 2000 information technology products and services from GSA's federal supply schedules.

However, the current bill would allow purchases through Jan. 1, 2002, while witnesses who testified before the Government Management, Information and Technology Subcommittee said they want purchases to made by 2000 or 2001.

Over the past several years, Congress has considered several proposals to let state and local governments buy off the GSA schedule, but past measures have failed. Some observers see Davis' bill as an opportunity to test the cooperative purchasing concept on a short-term basis.

Deidre Lee, acting deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, said her agency supports the bill, but she recommends a June 2000 deadline because of the unusual nature of the program. "Limited used of cooperative purchasing provides an opportunity to test and analyze its potential benefits and impacts,'' Lee said.

However, GAO and industry leaders said OMB's deadline is unrealistic. Because massive amounts of data exchange can hinder the federal government, GAO and industry leaders suggested that state and local governments should have until 2001 to purchase from the federal supply schedule to time for potential emergencies.

Rep. Stephen Horn (R-Calif.) said the purpose of the bill is to provide state and local governments that are behind in their Years 2000 fixes with additional tools to help them speed up the process. It also is to help critical programs that are managed and delivered by state governments, such as those providing food stamps, Medicaid and child nutrition, that could be at risk if progress on Year 2000 remediation is delayed.

"The fact is that several of these high-impact programs are not scheduled to be ready until December, leaving little, if any, time to correct unforeseen problems,'' Horn said.

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