Lawmakers adjust e-gov bills in bid to get them passed this year

The House Government Reform Subcommittee on Technology and Procurement Policy last week approved the E-Government Act of 2002, but stripped out a requirement for a governmentwide CIO.

The full committee is scheduled to vote on the bill this week.

“It has become readily apparent that the lack of centralized focus on information management has significantly harmed the government’s capability to manage IT and information security, and develop effective business plans for acquisition of IT products and services,” said Rep. Tom Davis, chairman of the subcommittee.

At the bill’s markup, the Virginia Republican replaced the House version of the E-Government Act with a substitute amendment that includes the Senate-passed version, S 803, and new security and contracting provisions. Rep. Jim Turner (D-Texas), the committee’s ranking member, sponsored the original bill, HR 2458.

Davis tagged on three other amendments that would:
  • Create an e-government administrator job, a post that would not require Senate confirmation. The Senate’s bill would establish a governmentwide CIO subject to confirmation.

  • Authorize the Digital Tech Corps program to let federal and private-sector employees exchange jobs for six to 24 months.

  • Allow use of share-in-savings contracts governmentwide. Agencies would award contracts for five to 10 years and pay vendors based on savings.

Turner opposed two of the three amendments, especially removing the Senate confirmation clause.

“Titles imbue power, responsibility and accountability,” he said. “It seems to make no sense that the administrator of the Office of E-Government should not be confirmed.”

Davis said he would keep an open mind on the confirmation question and would be willing to revisit the issue next session.

Turner also objected to the share-in-savings provision without a test period first. “The current provision that authorizes a pilot project is sufficient,” Turner said.

By using most of the Senate’s version, Davis resolved differences in authorization requests for the e-government fund. Both bills now call for OMB to receive $45 million in 2003, $55 million in 2004 and $250 million over the final two years of the bill.

Besides the amendments OK’d at the hearing, Davis earlier had added his Federal Information Security Management Act. The bill originally included a provision to permanently reauthorize the Government Information Security Reform Act.

FISMA would require all agencies to implement baseline security standards established by the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, and make permanent the agencywide risk management reviews begun this year under GISRA.

IT absolution

Davis also previously added a provision of the Service Acquisition Reform Act of 2002 to let state and local governments use the General Services Administration’s schedule contracts and absolve IT procurements from the strictures of the Buy American Act. He included a technical innovations program that would let the E-Government office review vendor proposals for innovative applications.

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.), who sponsored the Senate legislation, is trying a different route to get the bill enacted. Late last month, he folded his bill into the homeland security bill, HR 5005, and the Senate approved the amendment by unanimous consent.

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