Interior, EPA nicked in new spending law

The fiscal 2006 appropriations bill for the Interior Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and related agencies, signed into law by President Bush on Tuesday, reduced spending by about $800 million from this year, to a level of $26.2 billion.

The House and Senate appropriations committees generally passed on their opportunity to tinker with IT operations of the agencies'with a few exceptions.

For example, the law limits the amount of money Interior can spend on competitive sourcing studies to $3.5 million. Congressional leaders previously had restrained proposals to limit competitive sourcing.

Congressional conferees who resolved differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill settled on $127.2 million for departmental management expenses, much of which will go to IT projects.

But in doing so, the conferees reduced spending for IT certification and accreditation by $322,000 and reduced funding for the department's business and financial management systems project by $1 million.

Department IT officials who are embroiled in the Cobell v. Norton American Indian trust case received an important benefit in the bill. The law allows Interior to pay the private attorney fees that current and former department employees incur as a result of their involvement in the case.

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