Clinton, Congress get tough on USDA spending bill

President Clinton signed into law on Oct. 22 an appropriations bill that prohibits the Agriculture Department from buying new information technology systems or funding significant upgrades without the approval of the agency's chief information officer.

The fiscal 2000 USDA appropriations bill also forces the agency to seek the concurrence of the Executive Information Technology Investment Review Board before new IT systems or upgrades can be approved. In addition, none of the funds may be transferred to the Office of the CIO without the approval of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.

A House/Senate conference agreement on the bill provides $15.4 million for the Office of the Secretary instead of $2.8 million proposed by the House and Senate in separate versions of the bill. Included in this amount is $12.6 million for the development and rollout of the Common Computing Environment program, which will standardize the computing infrastructures throughout department field offices. However, this money will be available only after the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations and Agriculture approve a comprehensive plan for the CCE program.

The conference agreement also increases funding for the Office of the CIO from the $5.5 million proposed by the individual House and Senate bills to $6 million. House and Senate conferees added the $500,000 for information security programs.

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