Policy and News Updates for May 15, 2007



Policy Updates

[new] Intel bill passes House, upholds FISA

H.R. 2082, the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, passed the House on May 11 [roll call]. It included an amendment, co-sponsored by Reps. Adam Schiff [D-CA] and Jeff Flake [R-AZ], that upholds the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The bill authorizes funds for the intelligence community, estimated to be about $45 billion (the exact number is classified).

The Senate Intelligence Committee is scheduled to consider its fiscal 2008 authorization bill (S. 372) on May 17. In April, the White House threatened to veto the bill, rejecting a measure to declassify the total intelligence budget.

Under the new rules of the intelligence budgeting process, Congress must now disclose earmarks. The bill’s report lists earmarks for 26 projects requested by 11 lawmakers, totaling almost $100 million.

Tonight, May 15, Frontline asks: Is the Bush administration’s domestic war on terrorism jeopardizing our civil liberties? The program, “Spying on the Homefront”, will examine whether the president has violated the FISA and infringed on constitutional protections. [Check local listings]

[new] EPA library closings

It seems that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has gone ahead with dismantling its libraries, despite its promise to consult with Congress before proceeding.

An internal draft memo, obtained by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), shows that a new interim policy requires staff and officials at EPA libraries to make decisions about what to do with the materials in their physical collections. [See PEER’s News Release] Libraries have 5 basic choices:

  • Continue to keep items onsite
  • Send paper-only EPA documents to NEPIS (the National Environmental Publications Information System) for digitization
  • Send selected items to a designated EPA repository for retention
  • Disperse or donate items to other libraries
  • Recycle items

On April 29, House Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon [D-TN], House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell [D-MI], House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman [CA] and House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James Oberstar [D-MN] sent a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson requesting an update on the status of the EPA library system.

In response to the library closings, the American Library Association’s Washington Office and COL Subcommittee on Federal Libraries have created a Federal Libraries Wiki, providing people an outlet to share and track information on federal library threats, re-organizations, and closings.

[new] Accountability and transparency in contracting

In a new report, “A Return to Competitive Contracting, Center for American Progress Fellow Scott Lilly examines the rise of non-competitive contracts and offers suggestions to return the system toward accountability and transparency.

The report quotes a 2006 study conducted by the House Government Reform Committee for Rep. Henry Waxman [D-CA] which found, “federal contracting mushroomed from $203 billion in fiscal year 2000 to $377 billion by fiscal year 2005 – an increase of 86 percent. And the value of contracts not subject to full and open competition
grew from $67 billion to $145 billion during the same period – an increase of 115 percent.” According to the study, 40
cents of every discretionary federal dollar now goes to private contractors.

Rep. Waxman and the Oversight and Government Reform Committee have held five hearings since February to examine waste, fraud and abuse. In an event this week at the Center for American Progress, Rep. Waxman spoke about the Committee’s efforts. Read Rep. Waxman’s remarks and a partial transcript here.

In March, Rep. Waxman introduced H.R. 1362, the Accountability in Contracting Act. The bill passed the House by a vote of 347 to 73.


News from Coalition Partners and Others

Workshop To Explore Transparency, Effectiveness in eGovernment

Toward More Transparent Government: Workshop on eGovernment and the Web will be held June 18-19 in
Washington, D.C., at the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.
Attendees, invited speakers and panelists will discuss how the Web
works for citizens and governments and how it can best achieve their
goals. Co-sponsored by W3C and the Web Science Research Initiative
(WSRI), the Workshop is free and open to all but registration is required. The
deadline was extended to 22 May for position papers which are strongly
encouraged.

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