House e-gov bill moves forward


The House version of the E-government Act of 2002, H.R. 2458, moved out of the Government Reform subcommittee on technology and procurement policy Oct. 1, and is scheduled for markup by the full Government Reform Committee Oct. 9, said Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., chairman of the subcommittee.



Davis introduced an amendment substituting for the original bill, which the subcommittee approved. The substitute differs from the original in several respects.



The original bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim Turner, D-Texas, ranking member of the subcommittee, required the creation of a federal chief information officer in the Office of Management and Budget, a move the Bush administration opposed. The substitute bill does not include this requirement.



The original bill also created an e-government fund for interagency IT projects and authorized appropriations of $200 million each in fiscal 2002 through 2004. The bill passed out of subcommittee Sept. 30 includes appropriations for an e-government fund that increase from $45 million in 2003 to $150 million in 2006.



The bill passed out of subcommittee includes:

*A screening board in a new Office of E-Government to assess cutting-edge technologies that will facilitate interagency cooperation.

*Title V of the Services Acquisition Reform Act of 2002, a bill that Davis introduced. Title V exempts IT products from the Trade Agreements Act and Buy America Act and allows state and local governments to buy off the General Services Administration federal supply schedules for automated data processing equipment, software, supplies, support equipment and services.

*The Federal Information Security Management Act, H.R. 3844, legislation introduced by Davis that reauthorizes and strengthens the Government Information Security Reform Act. GISRA expires in November.


The bill as passed out of subcommittee will codify a new Office of E-government within the Office of Management and Budget to improve coordination and deployment of information technology across government, Davis said.



Nevertheless, Davis said he has strong reservations about creating a new office because some of its functions will overlap with the OMB Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. OIRA oversees agency information management activities. However, he said Congress' paramount concern should be signaling to federal agencies through the legislation that e-government is a top priority.



Redundant activities can be addressed next year, Davis said, when the Paperwork Reduction Act comes up for reauthorization. OIRA was created through the PRA, so its functions could be re-examined then, he said.



The subcommittee also approved three amendments to the bill. One amendment removed a provision that required the administration's top e-government official to be Senate-confirmed.



As amended, "this office is largely based on the structure put in place by the Bush administration when it appointed Mark Forman the administrator of e-government and information technology in June 2001," Davis said.



"We should defer on a decision as to whether or not Senate confirmation for this position is appropriate until we reauthorize the PRA next year," Davis said.



Turner opposed the amendment.



"It is a mistake not to have Senate confirmation for this position," he said, adding that it seems inconsistent with other OMB offices, such as OIRA and the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, which have Senate-confirmed administrators.



Another amendment adds the Digital Tech Corps Act to the bill. Davis introduced the act, H.R. 3925, earlier this year as a standalone bill. The provision provides for an exchange of mid-level IT staff between private sector organization and government agencies. Exchanges would last six to 24 months, and participants would retain pay and benefits from their prospective employers while on Tech Corps assignment. H.R. 3925 passed the House April 10.



"This program will achieve the type of cross-pollination that will allow our work force to be better prepared for the 21st century," Davis said.



The third amendment authorizes the use of share-in-savings contracts governmentwide. Under this contract type, IT contractors provide the technology up front and are paid from the savings their agency customers realize after implementation. Agencies keep some savings above what they pay their contractors.



"There is no downside to the government," Davis said.



Turner disagreed, saying share-in-savings contracts are complicated and largely untested.



"I oppose the amendment not because I oppose greater flexibility in contracting, but I think [current] authorization for pilot programs [using share-in-savings] is sufficient," he said.

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