Homeland bill now on a fast track

Sen. Joseph Lieberman's homeland security bill differs from the administration's proposal in a couple of key areas.

Congress is tinkering with the IT provisions in legislation to establish a Homeland Security Department, and committee staff members say the legislation could be on President Bush's desk by Sept. 11.

Among the provisions set for modification as the House and Senate consider different versions of the bill are the role of the new department's CIO, information security standards, procurement rules and provisions for IT research funding.

House majority leader Richard K. Armey (R-Texas) and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) met repeatedly to push forward the legislation, sources said.

In the House, several committees scheduled markup sessions last week. The House Select Committee on Homeland Security, led by Armey, was set to consolidate other committees' versions of the bill, and the House leadership planned to bring the legislation to a floor vote July 22, Armey spokesman Richard Diamond said.

The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, led by Lieberman, is set to mark up the bill July 24, a committee aide said.

House aides working to craft the modifications said the bill's IT sections likely would be expanded during the markup process.

'The most important thing is to have a much clearer idea of who is going to run this,' one source said. 'The current version of the bill leaves open competition between systems. The precursor agencies will have their fiefdoms.'

The legislation probably will be modified to reflect Congress' intent to push forward the Immigration and Naturalization Service's Entry-Exit System for tracking people crossing the border and the Chimera system for consolidating antiterrorist lookout systems, sources said.

'The legislation as it was introduced reflects an ignorance of the systems being absorbed,' said an IT specialist involved in the House markup. 'There needs to be a mission explanation.'

The House leadership will use President Bush's proposal as the basis for its homeland security bill, while the Senate likely will incorporate additional language from Lieberman's homeland security bill already approved by the Governmental Affairs Committee.

Lieberman's bill does not explicitly create a slot for a CIO, but the president's bill reflects the Clinger-Cohen Act's requirement for cabinet departments to have CIOs.

Amendments expected

The president's bill would let the new department's CIO report to the secretary or another official, but some lawmakers have suggested the law should require the CIO to report directly to the secretary, sources said.

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the Government Reform Subcommittee on Technology and Procurement Policy, last week expected to attach a number of technology amendments to the legislation at the Government Reform Committee markup.

Davis, who introduced some of the measures separately, planned to offer his Federal Information Security Management and Technical Innovations bills at the markup, spokesman David Marin said.

The first bill would extend the Government Information Security Reform Act, which is due to expire in November, and impose more rigorous security provisions on agencies.

The Technical Innovations bill would require the Office of Federal Procurement Policy to create a governmentwide program to spur contractor innovation in helping defend against or recover from terrorist attacks.

Davis also wanted to give agencies more flexibility in buying commercial items and establish a work force training fund. The markup also must resolve the different approaches to IT research funding in the president's proposal and Lieberman's bill. The president would put research funding authority in four divisions; Lieberman would set up a central authority.

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