House passes Tech Corps bill

After several fits and starts, the House of Representatives passed a bill April 10 to create a public/private exchange program for information technology and acquisition managers in government and industry.

The Digital Tech Corps Act of 2002, H.R. 3925, would break ground by allowing mid-level IT managers in federal agencies and private companies to swap jobs for at least six months and as long as two years. The bill passed on a 219-204 vote.

The bill aims to ease the federal government's shortage of trained IT workers, said its sponsor, Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee's Technology and Procurement Policy Subcommittee.

"It will improve the skills of federal IT managers by exposing them to cutting-edge management trends in the private sector; help federal agencies recruit and retain talented IT managers by offering them a valuable career development tool; and allow private-sector IT managers to apply their skills to challenging IT problems at federal agencies," Davis said in a statement.

Major industry organizations that had lobbied hard for the bill hailed its passage.

"We are delighted," said Olga Grkavac, an executive vice president with the Information Technology Association of America. The ITAA sent a letter April 9 to Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), the House Government Reform Committee chairman, pledging support for the bill from ITAA's more than 500 corporate members.

The bill stalled in the House after Davis introduced it in August 2001, and the committee revitalized it by revising it and reporting it out in mid-March. Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) introduced a companion bill, S. 1913, in the Senate Feb. 6 that is now in the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. Grkavac said that the passage of Davis' bill in the House "bodes well for action [on the Senate bill] by the end of the session."

The House bill passed with two amendments. One requires that 20 percent of the federal workers detailed to the private sector under the program be placed with small businesses. The other amendment requires the Office of Personnel Management to report to Congress on the adequacy of existing IT training programs available to federal employees and how those programs can be improved.

The second amendment also prohibits companies from charging costs associated with the Tech Corps program to contracts that they hold with the federal government.

House members defeated an amendment proposed by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) that would have prohibited private-sector employees detailed to federal government programs from having access to proprietary information submitted to those programs by other companies.

To counteract fears that the Tech Corps program would endanger trade secrets, Davis added to the bill provisions that place on participants a lifetime ban on talking about proprietary information. If they do talk, participants would be subject to criminal penalties of up to five years in jail and up to $50,000 in fines.


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