House e-gov restrictions find faint echo on Senate panel

A House lawmaker's effort to wipe out funding next fiscal year for the Transportation Department's Office of the Chief Information Officer found no followers today in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Senate appropriators voted to fully fund the executive branch’s request of $11.9 million for the Transportation CIO as part of the fiscal 2006 spending bill for the departments of Transportation, Treasury, Housing and Urban Development, the Judiciary, District of Columbia and Independent Agencies.

The House-approved version of that bill contains an amendment offered by Rep. Steve LaTourette (D-Ohio) that would transfer DOT CIO funding to financially strapped Amtrak.

Likewise, another House amendment, aimed at eliminating the General Services Administration's eTravel budget, found no support in the Senate committee. Appropriators there decided to continue funding the initiative.

But in response to small business' objections that the eTravel initiative excludes them, senators added a requirement that at least 23 percent of all the project’s contracted dollars be directed to small businesses.

Other measures the Senate committee did not adopt include the House’s decision to cut the e-government fund by $2 million, to $3 million. Senate appropriators voted to fully fund the Bush administration’s request of $5 million.

However, the money comes with the caveat that no transfers from the e-government fund can be made until Congress receives a proposed spending plan and justification for each project, the Senate bill states.

House restrictions that would prevent the Office of Personnel Management from spending money to construct new human resources management systems were not in the Senate version. The Bush administration is planning to propose legislation that would revamp the civil service, requiring new systems. In all, House lawmakers voted to cut $2.6 million from OPM while the Senate opted to fully funds the White House’s $124.5 million request.

The committee vote also cemented language introduced during a Senate appropriations subcommittee markup that would restrict competitive sourcing. That provision would prevent agencies from converting federal jobs into private-sector contracts without allowing government workers to compete.

Two amendments in the House version of the spending bill would further restrict the controversial practice. One amendment, offered by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), would prevent agencies from using the OMB circular that governs competitions. Another, offered by Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), would reverse the results of a $1.9 billion competitive sourcing bid that Lockheed Martin won earlier this year at the Federal Aviation Administration.

Unlike most House efforts to limit competitive sourcing, this Senate version has the support of a powerful Republican, Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond (R-Mo.), chairman of the subcommittee that passed the bill.

Maryland’s two senators, Democrats Barbara Mikulski and Paul Sarbanes, pushed for the language’s inclusion during markup.

A statement from Mikulski’s office trumpets the provision’s inclusion as part of the original spending bill rather than as an amendment added during floor proceedings.

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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