Proposed IT reform bill gets mixed response

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the draft IT legislation does not apply to the Defense Department. This version has been corrected.

A draft federal bill by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) to improve the information technology acquisition process would codify much of the White House’s own IT reform plan, giving the initiatives more teeth needed to force agencies to make changes.

But skeptics suggest that the bill might not be as effective as Issa hopes.

Much of the legislation focuses on strengthening IT budgeting and management, including increasing the authority of agency chief information officers and developing processes for technology asset inventory.

Other components target acquisition, such as requiring better business case analyses for contracts to eliminate duplication and developing consistent practices for buying commodity technologies.

Richard Beutel, the senior counsel for acquisition policy for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said during a speech at the George Washington University Law School last month the legislation could save taxpayers as much as $20 billion annually.

Skeptics of the bill say that the reforms could also wind up creating more bureaucracy and paperwork.

Issa’s reelection earlier this month allows him to continue his plan to hold hearings on the IT reform bill in early January and formally introduce it later that month.

The Federal Acquisition IT Reform Act would greatly affect the way agencies buy IT by moving the decision higher up the food chain, as well as putting more emphasis on strategic sourcing and shared services.

If passed, Issa’s bill would be the most significant change to the IT acquisition landscape since the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996, which created the agency chief information officer position, and the E-Government Act of 2002.

Angela Petty is senior principal research analyst at Herndon-based Deltek, which conducts research on the government contracting market, and can be found at www.deltek.com.

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