TechAmerica urges action by lame-duck Congress on laundry list of IT wants

Group urges extension of R&D tax credit, hold on 3 percent withholding bill

TechAmerica President and CEO Phil Bond today urged the upcoming lame duck session of the 111th Congress to take concerted action before adjournment on a range of unresolved IT issues.

Bond called the three-week session “a window that is open,” and he told a media teleconference he “remains hopeful” that Congress will make progress on a number of national security issues.

“This Congress still has the opportunity to help hone America’s competitive edge in the global innovation economy,” Bond said, and added that consensus already exists for swift passage of key cybersecurity measures critical to national and economic security.

Specifically, the professional IT association is urging Congress to delay for at least two years the 3 percent withholding requirement for contractor payments – passed in 2005 and is set to take effect Jan. 1, 2012 – until the implications for agencies and companies can be better understood.

“We see that 3 percent withholding as causing onerous, unnecessary burdens on both agencies and companies and most particularly hurting small companies,” according to a TechAmerica statement read to reporters.

TechAmerica also urged congressional leaders to strengthen and extend the long-expired Federal Research and Development Tax Credit, which TechAmerica said is a jobs credit.

“It needs to stand on its own. It’s worth doing for today and for tomorrow, for jobs now and in the future.” Bond said. “We would urge that it not be caught up in the other [tax issues].”

But, he added, if the tax credit were included in an overall tax package, “that would be a great vehicle.”

The lapse of the credit has placed at risk more than 100,000 well-paying jobs so far this year, according to TechAmerica research.

On national cybersecurity policy, TechAmerica favors a comprehensive approach but Bond said passing comprehensive cybersecurity legislation in the new, divided 112th Congress is going to get harder rather than easier.

“We have supported comprehensive [legislation] and worked hard for it, and will work in the next Congress for more comprehensive approaches,” Bond said.

“But we do know that we have some elements on which there is real consensus where we could make at least some progress now. And we think that the lame duck [session] is an opportunity to at least make some progress,” he said.

In the face of this reality, Bond said he would prefer to see limited progress made on reforming the Federal Information Security Management Act, which is included in similar ways in a House Defense authorization bill, and the comprehensive Senate cybersecurity bill introduced by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).

These would improve responsibility and accountability and write continuous monitoring into the law. A security and data breach bill has passed the House, and a comparable bill is in the Senate, so that agreement could be easily reached on it.

Bond acknowledged resistance to breaking out individual issues such as FISMA from a more comprehensive bill, but he said he prefers some progress to none.

“Let’s make some progress,” he said, noting that there is a small window of opportunity to accomplish a short list of things on which there already is consensus.

“We are holding out some hope because these are priorities that have been voiced and supported by leadership on all sides, Bond said, adding that there is no debate about the need for R&D credit, which he said has the support of the Obama administration.

About the Authors

David Hubler is the former print managing editor for GCN and senior editor for Washington Technology. He is freelance writer living in Annandale, Va.

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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