Issa sets tone for Government Reform Committee

Issa said he plans to examine government operations and find ways to improve them

In a recent debate on the federal workforce, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said the telework bill that is likely to become law soon only brings bureaucracy into agencies and doesn’t reflect the message voters sent Congress and the president in the recent midterm elections.

“This will be the first vote after the American people said no to government waste, fraud and abuse, government growth and government spending,” he said.

Issa's reaction to the Telework Enhancement Act (H.R. 1722) gives a sense of how he might lead as the incoming chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

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Issa said the legislation lacks many of the safeguards necessary to prevent employees from taking advantage of the lack of direct manager oversight. Furthermore, the bill does not require agencies to prove how much money they’re saving when they let employees work from home, and it creates no new teleworking jobs.

“We are talking about a new bureaucratic mandate within the federal regime,” he said.

Issa’s comments on the telework legislation signal his approach to leading the committee. He said he plans to examine government operations and find ways to improve them.

“He’s going to do oversight, oversight, oversight, but also look to see if we’re on the right track with programs,” said Jennifer Kerber, vice president of federal and homeland security policy at TechAmerica, an IT industry group.

Issa has talked about where he will take the committee starting in January. Among other issues, he said he will challenge the Obama administration’s plans for managing IT programs and procurements, drawing on his experience as former chairman of the Consumer Electronics Association.

“IT management reform is easier said than done,” said Frederick Hill, a spokesman for Issa. “For too many years, agencies have launched IT projects that attempt to achieve ambitious goals but ultimately fall short and waste billions.”

Hill said Issa looks forward to working with the Office of Management and Budget and the private sector on proposals to address wasteful spending from failed government IT programs.

Although he is still drafting his agenda for the committee, Issa recently told Politico he plans to hold plenty of hearings to keep tabs on the Obama administration.

“I want seven hearings a week, times 40 weeks,” Issa said.

He is likely to hold hearings on IT acquisition reform and contracts awarded with economic stimulus funds, among other things, Kerber said.

Issa’s committee has a wide area of coverage and has primary jurisdiction on a number of important government operations and management areas, including procurement and the federal workforce.

The Senate approved the telework bill in September. The House recently passed it by a vote of 254 to 152, and it has now gone to the White House for President Barack Obama’s consideration.

During the debate over the bill, Issa said he would deal with it again after he takes over as the committee’s chairman.

“I intend to bring back in the next Congress additional reforms and hold oversight as appropriate to make sure that we improve that which is not being dealt with today,” he said at the time.

Kerber said one of Issa’s main questions will be whether Congress is getting what it wants.

“He’ll be asking what’s government been doing and has it been carrying out Congress’ will,” she said.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.


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