Davis to bring brighter spotlight to government IT

Rep. Tom Davis is moving IT and information policy oversight to the full Government Reform Committee

Henrik G. de Gyor

The elimination of the House subcommittee that focuses solely on IT does not mean that federal agencies and contractors should expect oversight by lawmakers to relax.

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) decided earlier this month to move IT and information policy oversight from its own subcommittee to the full Government Reform Committee. The move is Congress' recognition of the important role technology plays in government operations, industry experts and lawmakers said.

"This is not an indication of technology issues being downgraded," Davis said. "Technology is really something that is throughout all of government, and not an issue by itself."

Under Davis, chairman of the Government Reform Committee, the full committee will handle major IT issues such as e-government, cybersecurity, information sharing, IP Version 6 and the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology System.

Davis also will set the IT agenda for the subcommittees. For instance, if there is a hearing on financial management, the subcommittee would include financial systems as part of its oversight, a committee staff member said.

"We will work with the subcommittees to facilitate the technology agenda," the staff member said. "There will be two full committee staff members working on IT and e-government issues, and at least three others working on IT, information policy and agency management issues."

Davis will have to pick and choose his IT priorities, said Dan Heinemeier, president of the Government Electronics and IT Association of Arlington, Va. But Heinemeier said he has little concern because Davis' background in IT is so strong.

The full committee also will look at other issues, including diploma mills, new dietary guidelines, and the management of legal immigration reform and the District of Columbia.

"We may see fewer hearings dedicated to IT, but there will be a quality versus quantity issue," the staff member said.

In the last two Congresses, Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Fla.) chaired the subcommittee on technology, information policy, intergovernmental relations and the census. Putnam, who conducted more than 30 IT hearings in two years, left the committee last November to join the Rules Committee.

"Chairman Davis is the granddaddy of most of the technology, information policy and procurement policy on the books today," Putnam said. "I'm not surprised he is anxious to continue to play a leading role in these issues."

Putnam, who said he will continue to keep an eye on federal IT policy and programs from his Rules Committee seat, said Davis played a key role in creating the IT subcommittee's agenda and ensuring that attention to IT issues would remain strong.

"We had the luxury of being able to devote more hearings on the topic," Putnam said. "But Davis has the luxury of bringing to bear the full force of the committee, so the IT management issues he highlights will have a far bigger spotlight on them than I was able to shine from the subcommittee level."

Davis signaled the committee's continued interest in IT by hosting officials from the Office of Management and Budget for an IT briefing four days before President Bush released his budget to Congress.

"That was a barometer for how the agencies view the committee," said Joe Draham, vice president of government relations and congressional affairs for GTSI Corp. of Chantilly, Va. As OMB sees it, if the committee cannot convince Tom Davis of an agenda's value, it will not bear fruit, Draham said.

Jason Miller, a senior writer for Government Computer News, can be reached at jmiller@postnewsweektech.com.

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