E-gov bill stalls in Senate

Sweeping e-government legislation designed to bring greater coordination and discipline to the way agencies use information technology is unlikely to pass the Senate this year. Now its supporters have begun looking toward next year as a more realistic time for passage.

In part, the bill introduced last May by Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) is a victim of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. The attacks pushed homeland defense well ahead of e-government on the Senate's agenda. But the E-Government Act of 2001 has also been stymied by opposition from the Bush administration and by a legislative calendar that is running short.

It's too late to include $200 million in funding that the bill calls for in the 2002 budget, said Kevin Landy, counsel to the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee and a staff member for Lieberman.

And in the wake of the terrorist attacks, e-government is not a top priority. Congress is focused on responding to the attacks, Landy told a gathering of IT business leaders Sept. 26. Meanwhile, the bill itself is gradually being overhauled. Landy said Senate staffers have been meeting with administration officials and "going through the bill section by section" to learn what changes would be required for the president to sign it.

The negotiations began in August and are continuing, Landy said. "I'm cautiously optimistic about progress," he said, but progress made this year may have to be carried over to 2002.

Some parts of Lieberman's bill enjoy administration support, according to those familiar with the negotiations. But serious disagreements remain over key provisions.

Lieberman wants to appoint a federal chief information officer and give that person significant influence over federal IT planning and performance, and substantial say in how federal agencies spend more than $40 billion a year on IT.

President Bush has opposed creating a federal CIO position and instead has appointed a lower-ranking associate director of information technology and e-government within the Office of Management and Budget.

Lieberman wants to spend $200 million a year to encourage the development of interagency e-government projects. The administration proposes spending $20 million for that purpose in 2002 and another $80 million during 2003 and 2004.

Landy said talks with administration officials have yielded "some progress in a number of areas," and said even major points of disagreement that remain might be resolved. But administration officials say they have no plans to compromise on the federal CIO or the $200 million IT fund.

"E-gov bill draws doubters" [FCW.com, July 12, 2001]

"E-gov bill wins some GOP support" [Federal Computer Week, May 7, 2001]

"Lieberman online" [Federal Computer Week, April 30, 2001]

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