The House Oversight and Government Reform committee’s agenda for the new Congress will include its usual scrutiny of the federal government’s ability to manage its IT, as well as a continued push for technology-based solutions that make government more transparent.
The panel approved its authorization and oversight plan for the 115th Congress by a 20-14 vote Thursday. The plan also calls for a focus on “oversight efforts on the state of cybersecurity at federal agencies, contractors and other entities in the 115th Congress.”
The panel also says it will “examine the challenges created by the changing landscape of digital communication, including the use of personal email and social media for government business.”
Committee member Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said earlier this week Congress should examine how correspondence among private email servers during a transition is captured.
“We don’t have a plan to capture perhaps the most important part of the deliberative process, which is how does this wonderful almost unique succession of transfers occur?” Issa said Wednesday at a Transparency Caucus briefing, later adding, “When we passed the Presidential and Federal Records Act, I don’t think anyone ever thought about: what about the Gmail account of the person who was on the campaign one day, and the next day gets told to help screen for future Cabinet officers?”
“The fact is,” Issa continued, “that is an area that during this administration, during these next four years, we’re going to have to mandate.”
When it comes to IT management, the authorization and oversight plan also says “the committee will consider legislative options to incentivize agencies to modernize IT by allowing agencies to reinvest savings realized through modernization.”
Last Congress, a bill seeking to help agencies modernize their legacy systems passed in the House but did not progress in the Senate. The Modernizing Government Technology Act of 2016 would have created individual IT working capital funds for each of the 24 CFO Act agencies and a centralized IT modernization fund housed in the Treasury Department that executive branch agencies could apply to draw from.
The technology-based aspects of the plan approved Thursday didn’t drum up any controversy during the markup.
Several amendments pushed by Democrats were rejected. They would have called for scrutiny into different aspects of President Donald Trump’s business holdings and his policy proposals, such as his potential conflicts of interest, his hotel and the future plans to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
One amendment offered by Gerry Connolly, D-Va., was added by voice vote. It reads:
“The Committee will conduct oversight of Executive Branch directives and Executive Orders to ensure that they do not exceed their legal authority and that they adhere to the requirements of the U.S. Constitution and federal law. The Committee will also examine directives and executive orders to assess their effects. The Committee will closely examine the effect of any federal action. The Committee will conduct oversight to ensure federal law upholds the U.S. Constitution. The Committee will monitor the enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws for instances of abuse and mismanagement.”
“We both recognize that this is not a partisan issue,” Connolly said Thursday of his amendment. “Concerns were raised in the previous administration, and already in this one, and it is a legitimate course of examination by this committee to retain oversight on executive orders in general.”
Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said the amendment’s language was appropriate and supported its adoption.