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House Panel Elevates IT Oversight To Full Committee

With technology so pervasive throughout the federal government, the entire House Government Reform Committee will provide IT oversight.

IT received a promotion of sorts in Congress. Credit, in part, the pervasiveness of IT throughout all government activities for the move.

Rep. Tom Davis, the Virginia Republican who has chaired the House Government Reform Committee for the past two years, has elevated oversight of IT issues to the full committee.

Governmental IT oversight previously was the province of a subcommittee. In the last Congress, the Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations, and the Census--chaired by Rep. Adam Putnam, R.-Fla.--provided House oversight on governmental IT matters. Putnam has joined the powerful House Rules Committee, which prohibits members from sitting on other panels.

In recent years, the designated IT subcommittee held hearings on governmental IT policy. Under the new committee structure, hearings could be held by either the full committee or by a subcommittee. The full committee would likely hold hearings if the matter deals with how IT is executed governmentwide, such as the administration's E-government initiatives or the federal enterprise IT architecture. But the subcommittee could hold hearings on more narrowly focused matters.

For instance, the new Subcommittee on Government Management, Finance, and Accountability could hold hearings on the IT system that manages Defense Department finances, or the Subcommittee on Federalism and the Census could hold sessions focusing on interagency information sharing.

"Technology is no longer an issue by itself," says Drew Crockett, the committee's deputy communications director. "Information technology is so marbled through government operations that you can't dissect it anymore; it's sprinkled through a number of different issues the committee looks at."

It's not uncommon for congressional committees and subcommittees to be formed around the interests and expertise of senior members of the committee's majority party--in this case, Republicans--who will become the panels' chairmen. From 2001 to 2003, for instance, Davis chaired the Subcommittee on IT and Procurement Policy, two topics in which he had interest and expertise. Davis is a one-time executive and lawyer for a federal IT integrator.

Here's a look at the panel's new subcommittees, along with their chairs--all Republicans--and their oversight responsibilities:

• National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations/Christopher Shays of Connecticut: National security; emerging threats; veterans affairs; homeland security; international relations, including foreign and domestic anti-terrorism efforts; and international trade.

• Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources/Mark Souder of Indiana: Criminal-justice system, foreign and domestic counternarcotics programs, food and drug safety; judiciary, public health and welfare, education, arts, the humanities, publicly sponsored media, and the national parks.

• Government Management, Finance, and Accountability/Todd Platts of Pennsylvania: Executive-branch financial management, excluding acquisition; governmental accounting measures; overall efficiency and management of government operations, excluding federal property; program assessment and review, including measures to terminate programs pursuant to review; public records, including presidential records, public access to records, advisory committees, and the archives; financial services; government-sponsored enterprises; and the nation's economic growth.

• Regulatory Affairs/Candice Miller of Michigan: Regulatory reform, congressional review, costs of regulation, paperwork-reduction measures, and tax policy.

• Federalism and the Census/Michael Turner of Ohio: Intergovernmental relations and aid to the states and localities, including unfunded mandates, grant management reform, brownfields clean-up and redevelopment, and infrastructure; population and demography, including the Census, and the Bureau of Economic Analysis; and housing and urban development.

• Energy and Resources/Darrell Issa of California: Environmental policy, natural resources, federal land, energy policy, and commerce.

• Federal Workforce and Agency Organization/Jon Porter of Nevada: Civil service, including personnel, classification, compensation, benefits, retirement, and employee relations; reorganizations of the executive branch, including the elevation, transfer, consolidation, and elimination of agencies; workforce; retirement; and health policy.

The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, chaired by Susan Collins, R.-Maine, has maintained IT oversight at the full-panel level for years.

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