House OKs bills streamlining acquisition, helping IT workers

The House Government Reform Committee March 14 approved three bills that would reform the acquisition process and aid information technology employees in the public and private sectors.

One bill would extend a pilot program that streamlines acquisition procedures for commercially available items. Another would expand the ability of federal contractors to telecommute And the third would establish a public-private exchange of IT personnel.

The bills, which will next go to the House floor for a full vote, are sponsored by Reps. Dan Burton, R-Ind., and Tom Davis, R-Va. Burton chairs the Government Reform Committee; Davis chairs its subcommittee on technology and procurement policy.

The Acquisition Streamlining Improvement Act, H.R. 3921, would extend for two years a pilot program authorizing streamlined acquisition procedures for commercially available goods and services worth up to $5 million. The program has facilitated the rapid rebuilding of the Pentagon after Sept. 11, Davis said.

The bill also instructs the General Accounting Office to study the program to determine if it should be extended permanently.

The Freedom to Telecommute Act, H.R. 3924, would prevent contracting officers from excluding contractors from work if they allow their employees to telework, except where national security could be compromised.

The Digital Tech Corps Act, H.R. 3925, enables the exchange of IT managers between the public and private sectors for up to two years. The employees will remain on the payroll of their permanent employer.

The program "marks a new vision for public service in the 21st century," Davis said. "It is an opportunity for government and private-sector IT professionals to cross-pollinate ideas, training and management practices for a better government and more productive private sector."

The committee defeated an amendment by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., that would have required the Office of Personnel Management establish a federal IT training program. Waxman said the Tech Corps bill did not guarantee that federal IT workers would get training in the private sector.

Davis countered Tech Corps was designed to enable knowledge transfer, not provide incremental training. He said the Waxman amendment would create a new bureaucracy.

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