GT: How has your experience with a high-technology company affected the way you look at information technology as a congressman?
Davis: It's about me knowing what uses of technology are out there -- sometimes it's the applications that we are not using in government. I was in local government for a while before I came here and I recognize that many times information services and technology are the last priority in putting a budget together.
Budgets tend to be very reactive, reacting to pressure from the public. Although you can become much more efficient and up-to-date in the way you do things by employing technology, many times the political pressures are to put more money in some of your social welfare programs or your payout programs in terms of direct services. Information technology doesn't fit into that category so it often gets neglected. That's been true at the federal level as well.
GT: Do you find your awareness of information technology to be different from your fellow lawmakers, who may not have the experience in IT that you have?
Davis: First of all, I've been able to pick an area on procurement law that most members have no interest in at all. There are no [reelection] votes to be had by getting interested in federal procurement policy. Yet there are a lot of changes that we can make in the way we are doing business, if somebody wants to get their teeth into it and try to work that as a legislative niche. And I've kind of found a niche there.
We've worked through some procurement reforms during this cycle and have suggested some others that I think will be enacted over the long term. These will allow government to buy and sell technology in a way that's fairer to federal contracting officers and to the companies that provide them a service. It will also give more value to the public that will benefit from these.
GT: A procurement reform initiative which affects our readers is cooperative purchasing, which enabled state and local governments to use the GSA Schedule as a procurement guide. But the initiative was delayed by Congress until the Government Accounting Office could review it. Will you tell us what happened?
Davis: That's very interesting because there was opposition to that in our Government Reform and Oversight Committee from [Rep.] Bill Zeliff of New Hampshire, who was hearing from a lot of the middlemen who sell equipment to state and local governments and who were basically being taken out of the loop by the cooperative purchasing enacted in 1994.
I've always liked cooperative purchasing because it helps state and local government get the same kind of value the federal government does in the larger pool. But some of the companies that manufacture equipment don't like it because they can sell at a higher price to state and local government. The middlemen who are selling this stuff out there are losing commissions when state and local governments itericoncan buy directly from the co-op instead of from them. So these companies put a lot of pressure on some of the members to try to repeal these provisions.
he reason they enter into a co-op with the federal government, of course, is because that's the way government is going to buy it. They are either going to sell to them or not sell anything at all, so they are forced into a competitive environment. But bringing in state and local governments takes a whole other market share away from them that they were, I wouldn't say gouging, but selling at more inflated prices.
GT: Did state and local governments weigh in on this matter?
Davis: State and local governments weighed in but the reality in Washington is that state