Two House members to hold IT forum over colleagues' objections

Two Democratic House members are hosting a forum May 11 to hear from industry about the IT issues that are affecting the government these days.

Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) are hosting the fact-gathering forum, which includes a panel discussion with large and small IT companies, as well as government officials. The forum is expected to highlight a range of IT issues, specifically though, the proposal to shut down federal data centers and the Office of Management and Budget’s 25-point plan to reform IT management.

The forum is also expected to explore the affects of an over-reliance on “low priced technically acceptable” contract awards and the current challenges facing the acquisition workforce.

Connolly and Cummings have invited representatives from the Professional Services Council, Microsoft, Google, and a number of smaller IT companies and their trade associations. They also invited government officials from OMB and the Federal Acquisitions Institute.

The forum begins at 9 a.m. at the Fairfax County Government Center in Fairfax, Va.

In April, Connolly and Cummings, senior members of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, first asked Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) for a field hearing. Issa said no, arguing that it was too close to election season to host a field hearing in a member’s congressional district. He added that the committee allows for events in the Washington, DC, area, but the use of committee funds must apply to existing committee rules and practices.

The committee has had a standing agreement that field hearings in a member’s district when an election is 45 days away could give the appearance of spending tax money to get votes, Issa wrote in April. Virginia's primary election is set for June 12. Such a hearing might be seen as a election "gimmick."

Connolly and Cummings are moving ahead though.

“Although we are disappointed that you will not participate, we are writing to inform you that we plan to go forward with the event as a minority-sponsored forum,” they wrote to Issa May 3. Connolly is the ranking member of Oversight Committee’s Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and Procurement Reform Subcommittee. Cummings is the ranking member of the full committee.

Connolly and Cummings wrote that they agree with the principle of the committee’s agreement. However, they wrote that Connolly is not on the June 12 primary ballot because he does not have a primary challenger. No member of the committee will appear on Virginia’s primary ballot. They have cleared the event with the House’s legal experts and Connolly was certified by state officials to release the kind of mass mailings that are often stopped near an election.

While Connolly and Cummings agree with the committee’s policy, they wrote that, “We do not believe it makes sense to apply this policy to a member who is not on the ballot.”

About the Author

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

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