Senate panel approves IT oversight bill

A Senate panel has approved legislation to require federal agencies to set up Web sites to track IT projects and create 'tiger teams' for troubled projects.

A Senate panel has approved legislation that would require federal agencies to set up public Web sites with status reports of their major information technology projects.

The sites would show federal IT projects’ cost, schedule and performance information based on Earned Value Management data that would be updated quarterly, according to the Information Technology Oversight Enhancement and Waste Prevention Act of 2009 (S. 920) introduced by Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.). The bill was approved May 20 by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

The measure would also require agencies to present a clear and comprehensive business case for IT investments, with complete and accurate information, before the Office of Management and Budget approves projects.

“Although this sounds like a simple concept, it doesn’t always happen. And OMB has historically been unwilling to turn down an agency IT request,” Carper said in a statement introducing the bill.

The legislation would give OMB authority to establish “tiger teams” of experts who can help bring a troubled IT project back on track.

“I have examined many critical issues that call into question the federal government's ability to use technological innovations to save money and improve customer service," Carper said. "The Information Technology Investment Oversight Enhancement and Waste Prevention Act is another way to help manage costs and to make certain that every hard-earned tax dollar the government collects is used efficiently and effectively."

The Professional Services Council, a trade organization that represents professional services contractors, said the legislation recognizes agencies need staff members capable of planning out projects in advance. The bill makes additional federal resources available to agencies to ensure project success, said Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president of the council.

“This bill recognizes that, as with all programs, one of the best indicators of federal IT program success is the extent to which agency attention is given to upfront planning by well-qualified staff. The bill will contribute significantly to achieving that standard,” Chvotkin said.

The committee adopted a similar bill sponsored by Carper in September 2008, but the legislation did not go to the Senate floor.