Senate passes $91 billion Transportation, Treasury bill

The Senate has passed a $91 billion Transportation, Treasury and general government appropriations bill for fiscal 2004 that provides a mixed outlook for IT and some challenges for President Bush.

Among its provisions, S 1589 would allow private-public job competitions to continue under the revised OMB Circular A-76. The House, which passed its version of the bill in July, scrapped funds for reviews using the new rules (Click for Sept. 10 GCN story). The House would allow job competitions using the earlier version of A-76.

The Senate did make some exceptions to the revised circular. It voted against a requirement that government teams winning job competitions recompete for them every five years. The Senate also restored a provision that requires work under A-76 competitions to be awarded to federal bidders unless the private-sector bidder can beat the government bid by 10 percent.

'If an outside contractor can't save the government at least 10 percent on performing a particular function, then the costs associated with dislocation and change simply aren't worth it,' said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). Collins, chairwoman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, proposed the amendment.

But the White House balked at the Senate and House competitive-sourcing strictures. 'Prohibiting the use of the new A-76 Circular to conduct public-private competition is akin to mandating a monopoly regardless of the impact on services to citizens and the added costs to taxpayers,' the administration said in a statement.

The president said in his statement that if the final conference version sent to him eliminates funding for revised job competitions or the ban on travel to Cuba, he would veto the bill. The Senate voted to throw out the 40-year-old Cuban travel ban.

In specific project appropriations, the spending bill would fund IRS business systems modernization at $429 million, the same as the president's request, said Melanie Alvord, a spokeswoman for the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network would receive $57.6 million, also as requested by the president. FinCEN use electronic tracking and data analysis to counter terrorist financing and money laundering.

The Senate approved $5 million for the Office of Management and Budget's E-Government Fund, $40 million less than the administration's request. The House authorized only $1 million (Click for Sept. 10 GCN story)

Congress has approved $5 million for the E-Government Fund in each of the last two years, even though the administration said in 2001 that it wanted to pump $100 million over three years into the fund.

The Senate approved $258 million for National Archives and Records Administration operations, but nothing for NARA's Electronic Records Archives project. Lawmakers have asked the General Accounting Office to review the project. The House version fully funded the ERA project.

The spending bill also would provide a pay raise for federal workers equal to that of the military.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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