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Draft bill to reform IT management prompts industry criticism

Dec. 4, 2012 - 11:25AM   |  
By NICOLE BLAKE JOHNSON   |   Comments
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., circulated adraft bill called the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act in September for feedback.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., circulated adraft bill called the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act in September for feedback. (Getty Images)

A draft bill to overhaul federal information technology management and spending is apparently drawing bipartisan support — but it is also drawing some complaints from contracting groups.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., circulated the draft bill, called the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act, in September for feedback. The bill would encourage greater use of open source software, empower chief information officers to oversee how IT dollars are spent, consolidate IT acquisitions under newly created centers of excellence, promote more robust training of IT acquisition staff, and call for more rigorous reporting on federal data center consolidation.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va. supports many provisions in the draft bill. At a Washington event Monday, Connolly appeared with Issa and said he looks forward to working with him on the bill.

But some industry groups are strongly opposing parts of the draft bill. Specifically, they take issue with the bill’s measures to consolidate IT acquisitions under new centers of excellence and to make it easier for agencies to adopt open source software.

For example, the bill could enable the Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services departments to serve as go-to centers for all agencies’ health IT acquisitions. Industry groups, such as TechAmerica and the Coalition for Government Procurement, say they are concerned this would undermine the General Services Administration’s federal supply schedules program that companies invest in heavily.

The industry groups, which aired their concerns with the bill in a joint letter to Issa on Friday, added that encouraging greater use of open-source software could prejudice agencies’ use of other commercial software when deciding what software to invest in.

Other groups that signed the letter were BSA The Software Alliance and the Information Technology Industry Council.

Ali Ahmad, a spokesman for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said companies would benefit from the newly created centers because they would no longer have to spend money to vie for business on numerous competing contracts, and the bill would save government administrative costs by reducing duplicative contracts. Ahmad added the bill neither promotes nor mandates the use of open source software.

Issa has not said when he will introduce the bill.

“I released the discussion draft to promote exactly this kind of dialogue amongst all stakeholders,” Issa said in a statement to Federal Times about the industry letter.

Issa said $20 billion a year that agencies spend to maintain obsolete and deficient IT could be reinvested to save the government $200 billion in waste, fraud and abuse.

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