IT accountability bill has bipartisan backing

Momentum is building for a bill that would require agencies to report their progress on information technology investments so that Congress and the Office of Management and Budget would have an early warning system to avert problems before they become too big.

The bill, S. 3384, has bipartisan and leadership support from the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which is expected to mark up the bill in September soon after lawmakers return from recess.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the committee's Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services and International Security Subcommittee, introduced July 31 the legislation that would require agencies to report regularly on significant deviations in cost, schedule and performance. Several committee members, including Chairman Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ranking Member Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), co-sponsored the bill.

"I look forward to passing this bill this fall one way or another," Carper said. The Senate could pass the legislation as its own bill or as part of other legislation during the short working session remaining this year.

The committee plans to meet with industry and taxpayer advocacy groups about the bill, a Carper staff member said.

Trey Hodgkins, vice president of federal government programs at the Information Technology Association of America's public-sector group, said it is possible Congress could pass the legislation before adjourning.

"If this is perceived as being noncontroversial, good government, good oversight legislation, it can pass pretty rapidly," Hodgkins said. He said he has heard unofficially that the bill has the Bush administration's support, which improves its chances. ITAA, a trade group representing contractors, has not taken a formal position on the bill.

David Powner, the Government Accountability Office's director of IT management issues, said the legislation is a good idea because agencies need help.

"The bill's requirement to report cost and schedule breaches means that agencies will need to be more transparent with and accountable for their poorly performing projects," Powner said.

Mary Mosquera and Michael Hardy write for Federal Computer Week, an 1105 Government Information Group publication.

About the Authors

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

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