Lawmakers present IT work force, acquisition act

Two House lawmakers introduced March 5 legislation to improve how the government purchases and uses information technology by extending a pilot program that uses simplified acquisition procedures, establishing an exchange program for public-private IT managers and preventing federal contractors from being penalized for using telecommuting.

The Federal Information Technology Workforce and Acquisition Improvement Act of 2002 was introduced by Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, and Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., chairman of its subcommittee on technology and procurement policy.

"This bill will bring a much needed, common-sense approach to the way the federal government makes purchases and manages information technology," Burton said.

The bill incorporates the language of Davis' Digital Tech Corps Act of 2001, which creates an IT employee exchange program between the public and private sectors. The exchange program would enable federal managers to learn industry's IT management practices, while private-sector managers would bring their perspectives to IT challenges facing the federal government.

The one-year assignments could be extended for a second year. Participants would retain their pay and benefits from their respective employers.

"This critically needed legislation includes the Digital Tech Corps Act, which I introduced last year in response to the government's IT personnel crisis," Davis said. "It's a true win-win, facilitating the exchange of technology best practices and innovation between the private sector and federal agencies."

The bill also would extend for five years a pilot program authorizing streamlined acquisition processes, which are especially important in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Davis said.

This pilot program was recently used to speed the purchase of telecommunications routers and switches necessary to repair the wing of the Pentagon damaged Sept. 11.

Furthermore, the bill would prevent agencies from issuing solicitations that would disqualify contractors that allow telecommuting. It also would prohibit agencies from reducing the scoring of a contractor's proposal because it uses telecommuting.

An exception would be made if the contracting officer certifies in writing that telecommuting would conflict with the needs of the agency, such as when contractors must handle classified or sensitive information.

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