WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., Wednesday successfully reported out of committee several pieces of legislation central to the effective stewardship of the federal government.
At a Committee markup, members approved by voice vote S. 2324, The Inspector General Reform Act; S. 2321, The E-Government Reauthorization Act; S.100, The Telework Enhancement Act; and S.1667, a bill to create a pilot program to dispose quickly of unused federal buildings. All were passed by voice vote.
“Each of these bills will improve the effectiveness, efficiency, and accountability of government,” Lieberman said. “We came here to legislate and that is just what we are doing,”
S. 2324, The Inspector General Reform Act would give greater independence to and require more accountability from Inspectors General (IG). Among other things, it would require the Administration to notify Congress 30 days before attempting to remove or transfer an IG; require that all IGs be chosen on the basis of qualifications, without regard to political affiliation; provide greater transparency of IG budget needs to help ensure the IG offices have the resources they need for their investigations; and enhance IG accountability by strengthening the Integrity Committee that handles allegations against IGs and their senior staff.
“IGs have become like consumer protectors for the taxpayer deep within each agency,” Lieberman said. “Their audits have saved our government billions of dollars, and exposed cases of serious misconduct and mismanagement. This bill helps ensure that IGs are more independent and more accountable so they can better perform their valuable work for the public interest.”
Collins said: “Inspectors General are vital partners in Congress’s effort to identify inefficient, ineffective, and improper government programs. The investigations and reports of IGs throughout the government help Congress shape legislation and oversight activities – improving government performance, providing important transparency into programs, and giving Americans better value for their tax dollar. The Inspector General Reform Act of 2007 will improve the independence and effectiveness of Inspectors General and contribute to better relations among the IGs, the agencies they serve, and the Congress.”
S. 2321, the E-Government Re-Authorization Act, would reauthorize for five years critical provisions that are set to expire in the E-Government Act, which Lieberman authored and the Committee and Congress passed in 2002. The measure would increase government accessibility and transparency by requiring the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to work with federal agencies to make sure their information and services can be found by search engines. The bill also will improve privacy protections across the government by requiring the development of best practices for privacy impact assessments, which were mandated in the original E-Government Act.
The Committee also approved S. 2292, The National Bombing Prevention Act, which would formally authorize the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Bombing Prevention (OBP) and increase its budget to $25 million. The measure would also require the President to deliver a long awaited National Strategy for Improvised Explosive Devices and it would require DHS to establish a program to speed up the transfer of counter IED technology to first responders. “Improvised Explosive Devices are a global threat and federal efforts to protect Americans against them need to be strengthened and expanded,” said Lieberman.
Collins said, “The most likely terror threat around the world and here in the U.S. is that of IEDs. We are also painfully aware that IEDs are the cause of much death and destruction in Iraq. The FBI and DHS tell us that the threat from these devices is not only real, but growing. The Collins- Lieberman National Bombing Prevention Act of 2007 aims to improve our defenses against this deadly weapon. I am pleased that it was approved by our committee.”
The committee also passed:
• S. 1000, Telework Enhancement Act of 2007, which would help improve the cost-efficiency of the federal government by requiring agencies to develop telework strategies and determine which employees are eligible for telework.
• S. 1667, a bill to establish a pilot program for the expedited disposal of Federal real property, which would allow agencies to recoup administrative costs associated with the sale of excess federal property, as well as a portion of the proceeds of the sale. The bill also ensures that unused federal buildings be reviewed to determine if they are suitable for use by groups serving the homeless.
• H.R. 390, Preservation of Records of Servitude, Emancipation, and Post-Civil War Reconstruction Act.
• H.R. 3571, a bill to amend the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995.
• Ross Ashley, Assistant Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
• Ellen Williams, Postal Board of Governors, Member.
• Agreed to 15 postal naming bills.