Davis reiterates Reform agenda

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) took another opportunity to address the priorities for the Government Reform Committee he chairs as Congress gets underway again.

Speaking Feb. 3 to a Washington D.C. conference hosted by the nonprofit Information Technology Service Management Forum, Davis touched on share-in-savings contracting, information security, workforce issues, competitive sourcing and even foreign trade issues in a keynote address.

"We have an aggressive agenda this time," he said.

Davis reiterated his support for the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002, which agencies have complained about having to add to their growing pile of mandates. Despite that reluctance, FISMA forces them to enact needed security measures, and also raises awareness about the risks, he said.

"You can get a Ph.D. in computer science and never take a course in computer security," he said. Davis' committee will work on bringing federal contracting practices into compliance with the security law, he said.

Congressman Davis touched on the need to attract and keep talented young IT workers in the government. "If you're young and in government and you're good at it, you're going to get offers in the private sector," he said. "Offers with things like stock options that the federal government doesn't have."

Davis plans to revisit the portions of his Services Acquisition Reform Act that didn't pass in 2003, including extended authority for share-in-savings contracts. Although both agencies and federal employee unions are hesitant to embrace the practice, in which companies that help agencies save money get to keep some of the savings as payment, Davis saw it work when he was county executive in Fairfax County, Va., where it allowed the county to modernize an IT infrastructure that would have remained outmoded if the county had had to pay up front.

Finally, he acknowledged that the practice of competitive sourcing, governed by Office of Management and Budget Circular A-76, has both benefits and drawbacks. On the downside, it drives some talented employees out of government, resentful that they may have to compete to keep their job every five years, he said.

Ultimately, though, he defended the practice, saying that when government employees have to examine how they deliver services and look for ways to become more efficient, they usually win competitions and the government gets a more efficient organization in the bargain.

The process of examining how employees do their jobs can cut out a great deal of inefficiency out of agency costs, he said.

"Waste, fraud and abuse doesn't come in neatly tied packages," he said. "It's not a line-item in a budget. It's layered through the way we do business."


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