Call for agency privacy officers meets resistance

Call for agency privacy officers meets resistance

Rep. Tom Davis is taking a stand against what he thinks is the added bureaucracy that would result if agencies are required to name chief privacy officers.

The Virginia Republican introduced two pieces of legislation earlier this week to repeal or at least modify the language in the Treasury, Transportation and General Government section of the Omnibus appropriations bill that would require at least a handful of agencies to hire chief privacy officers.

President Bush signed the nine-agency fiscal 2005 spending bill into law last night.

But Davis, chairman of the Government Reform Committee, disliked the language so much that he introduced two bills before the Omnibus was signed into law. He also knew the bills would die as soon as Congress adjourned for the year on Friday.

'We want to make a statement that we are serious about getting this fixed,' said Robert White, a Davis spokesman. 'We will reintroduce the bills next session.'

White said Davis favors repealing the language, but would be satisfied with modifying the provision to say that the chief privacy officer 'shall assist the CIO' on privacy issues.

During the debate over the Omnibus bill earlier this week, Davis said the privacy provision is redundant in light of existing laws and policy.

'I strenuously oppose section 522 of the Transportation, Treasury Appropriations Act of 2005, requiring that each federal agency have a privacy officer to carry out duties relating to the privacy and protection of personally identifiable information,' Davis said. 'These federal information security functions are an intrinsic part of existing federal information policy. They are the responsibility of the agency CIO. Therefore, privacy officers are unnecessary.'

OMB officials would not speculate on Davis' attempt to repeal the provision. But officials said the provision does not call for a lot of new functions.

'By asking for a person to be named the chief privacy officer, Congress clearly signaled they want one person accountable,' said an OMB official who requested anonymity. 'What the provision does is accelerate the timing for privacy impact assessments when agencies are involved in rulemaking. It also would require agencies to change internal procedures.'

The official pointed out that administration opposed a similar provision in the 9-11 Intelligence Reform bill and watered down the language, turning it from a mandate into a 'sense of Congress.'

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