Lawmakers search for new system to get their House in order

Four years after Congress first tentatively plugged into the World Wide Web, the House of Representatives is shopping for a powerful new computer system that will enable lawmakers and staff members to easily navigate and manage the fast-rising flood of information surging through cyberspace.

In a recent "request for information on current technology," the House asked venders for information about commercially available hardware and software that will provide quicker access to information.

House staffers need to be able to find information faster and with less effort, said Jason Poblete, spokesman for the House Administration Committee. The House is looking for systems that can provide "one-stop organization—being able to log in, and without knowing exactly what's available, be one or two clicks away from whatever you need," Poblete said.

"Expanded search capability" is a key requirement, Poblete said. Knowledge management tools are another. House staffers need better access to information, whether that includes updates on the status of legislation, background information on issues or access to the latest press clippings about House members.

The Administration Committee, which oversees the management of the House of Representatives, plans to redesign and combine a number of Web sites to provide easier access to information, Poblete said. But what is ultimately needed is "a technology solution" that is able to deal with "the heterogeneous environment of the House," where different offices have different needs and use a wide array of software and services.

The House is now running on a Microsoft Corp. Windows NT network that provides intranet and Internet access. Microsoft Exchange handles the e-mail.

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