« ZurückWeiter »
Office of the Legislative Counsel
Sinement of M. Pope Barrow, Legislative Counsel
Vahuan and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to appear www.vw to present the fiscal year 2002 appropriation request for the Office of the Legislative
For fiscal year 2002 I am requesting an appropriation of $5,454,000. This is an increase 9309,000 over our fiscal year 2001 and fiscal year 2000 appropriations, which were each in the mount of $5,085,000. Personnel funding increases of $278,000 are attributable to the following. $173,000 for FY02 cost-of-living increases, $51,000 to annualize the FY01 cost-ofliving increases, $40,000 for merit increases, $10,000 for consultant contracts, and $4,000 for overtime pay. The increase of $91,000 in nonpersonnel funding will be used to replace 20 personal computers, 2 copiers, and associated software.
Functions of the Office
Under our statutory charter, the purpose of the Office of the Legislative Counsel is to advise and assist the House, its committees, and Members in the achievement of a "clear, taithful, and coherent expression of legislative policies". Our goal is to prepare drafts that curately reflect the legislative objectives of the Member or committee concerned, that are legally sufficient to carry out that policy, and that are as clear and well organized as possible under the circumstances.
The Office is neutral as to issues of legislative policy. Since our inception, we have assisted proponents of all political viewpoints while maintaining confidentiality with each client.
To carry out our statutory charter, we have assembled a staff of attorneys with extensive experience in virtually every area of Federal law. We strive to provide drafting assistance, often on short notice, in the most complex subject areas. During the past year, the Office of the Legislative Counsel provided drafting assistance in connection with most of the major legislation under consideration by the House and its various committees. Most recently, for example, three attorneys from our office assisted in the preparation of the tax bill that was sent to the President on May 26 (the "Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act"). Just prior to that, four attorneys in our office worked on drafting the education bill that passed the House on May 23 (HR. 1, the "Leave No Child Behind Act of 2001").
Management of the Office Workload
Attorneys in our Office must specialize in order to efficiently handle the complexity and volume of legislation in many areas of Federal law such as tax, immigration, health care, pensions, welfare, housing, and environmental law. Our workload is very heavy, particularly at peak periods, and (except for one vacancy which we will fill within the next month) we are at our maximum personnel ceiling of 51. Even if our personnel ceiling were increased, we do not have the physical space at this time for an additional employee. In some cases we now have only a single expert in a particular area. This means that our ability to handle the legislative workload can deteriorate if that attorney unexpectedly resigns or become ill for a prolonged period.
One way we have tried to address this problem has been to have attorneys strive to develop expertise in multiple areas of Federal law, and to work in each of those areas with one or more partners. Under this system, attorneys can share the burden when a particular legislative area is extremely active, and we do not suffer as debilitating a loss of expertise if we temporarily or permanently lose the services of the attorney who is most experienced in a given area. This had been partially successful, but we are still short-handed at times.
Another tactic that we have resorted to in the past several years is to briefly bring back on short-term contract an experienced former employee who has retired. In situations where the newer employees assigned to an area have not yet had time to learn the ropes, the temporary return of an experienced person can assure us of the ability to meet urgent drafting requests until the newer employees become more familiar with the legal area concerned. We expect to continue this practice on a modest basis in fiscal year 2002 and have requested a budget of $10,000 for that purpose.
In order to provide a quick and efficient response to drafting requests, our Office relies heavily on modern and sophisticated computer hardware and software. We have an excellent systems administrator to help us manage this complex and constantly changing system. We need to have instant access to electronic versions of bills, amendments, conference reports, committee reports, and compilations of existing law from the current session and from earlier sessions of Congress. Our computer files must be 100% compatible with those of the Clerk of the House and the Senate Legislative Counsel, and with legislative documents prepared by GPO. This greatly enhances the efficiency of our operations and allows us to meet very tight deadlines without having to retype drafts or parts of drafts of legislation from earlier sessions of Congress or from Senate bills.
We are moving forward with improvements in our equipment in order to better serve the House. To maintain currency of hardware, we are continuing to systematically replace and update our computer hardware and related equipment. A portion of our equipment will be replaced in
fiscal year 2002 and an approximately equal portion each year thereafter. Each year developments in software enable us to achieve incremental efficiencies in our operations. For example, we have now almost completely ceased using the physical mail system, and even the fax system, for delivery of drafts. Almost all attorneys now routinely send documents completely formatted for printing through the House e-mail system to their clients who are then able to print hard copies of those documents at their desk, send them to others by e-mail for review, or publish them immediately, if they so desire, on the World Wide Web. We are continuing to work on other means to improve the performance of our computer and printing systems.
Our office has been playing an active role in the work project undertaken by the Clerk of the House in cooperation with the Secretary of the Senate to develop a new system of composing and managing legislative documents, the searching of those documents, and their publication in XML (Extended Markup Language) for transmission and publication on the Internet. The XML task force is comprised of representatives from the Offices of the Clerk and the Secretary, our office, the GPO, the Library of Congress, and others. Hopefully, this project will provide for more rapid and efficient distribution of legislative documents (bills, reports, conference reports, etc.). It will require additional development to allow us to maintain our essential ability to have an instantaneous exchange of documents with the Government Printing Office and the Senate Legislative Counsel.
Retaining a Highly Qualified Staff
Properly drafted legislation is of incalculable value to the House and to the Nation. Poorly drafted legislation can be costly to private parties and to the Government. It can result in unnecessary confusion and delays, allocation of funds in ways not intended by the Congress, and in needless litigation. Many millions of dollars can be wasted or misallocated by reason of mistakes in legislative language. At the same time, the issues before Congress are becoming increasingly complex as time passes, and more often than not, drafting is required under tight time lines.
To respond to the demands of this situation, we select the most highly qualified young lawyers we can find, most often directly out of law school or from judicial clerkships. We then provide them with an extensive apprenticeship, sometimes lasting up to two years, in the basics of drafting. Meanwhile they begin learning several substantive areas of Federal law. We then do our best to retain these valuable people for as long as possible so that we do not lose the benefit of their training and knowledge.
The office is career-oriented. Traditionally we have had a low turnover among the staff. Although we are finding it increasingly difficult to hire and retain highly qualified attorneys, we still have a solid group of thirty-two experienced attorneys with four more in training. Twenty
seven attorneys (75%) have been with the Office for 10 years or more. Twenty-two attorneys (61%) have been in the Office more than 15 years; and ten of our attorneys (28%) have been with the Office for 25 years or more. The knowledge and skill that these experienced people bring to the process of drafting legislation are invaluable to the House and to the Nation.
Despite this outstanding record, because of the dramatic explosion of salaries in private practice it becomes more difficult each year to hire and retain attorneys of the high caliber that we are accustomed to. In the past month we lost one of our most promising young attorneys; and a valuable attorney with five years of experience resigned less than a year ago. We are doing everything we can to maintain an experienced staff of attorneys, but the financial enticements for young attorneys outside of Government are simply too much for some to resist.
Finally, I would like to express my appreciation for the support this subcommittee has given our Office. This has enabled us to maintain the ability to provide quick, efficient, and expert drafting assistance to the Members and committees of the House. We are continuing our efforts to improve our services wherever possible.
Statement of Steven A. McNamara, Inspector General
U.S. House of Representatives
Before the Subcommittee on Legislative Appropriations
Chairman Taylor and Members of the Subcommittee, I am both pleased and honored to appear before you today in my capacity as the Inspector General of the House.
I would like to begin by briefly discussing the accomplishments of the Office of Inspector General (OIG) during the second session of the 106th Congress as well as the initiatives currently underway pursuant to our proposed Calendar Year (CY) 2001 Annual Audit Plan (AAP). I will then discuss the resources required to provide quality audit/investigative services to the House in Fiscal Year (FY) 2002.
Accomplishments During the Second Session of the 106th Congress
During the second session of the 106th Congress, we continued to identify areas needing administrative and financial improvement. In CY 2000, we issued eight reports and made 45 recommendations for corrective action and identified numerous material internal control weaknesses. In addition, we currently have 13 audits in progress.
For CY 2000, we issued three confidential audits that addressed operating systems, data center and network security. The first of these--Windows NT Administration Can Be Improved With Use Of Established Guidance--found no serious vulnerabilities that would jeopardize the security of the overall House intranet but did find various Windows NT security vulnerabilities in individual offices. Management took immediate corrective action to correct these vulnerabilities. A second report, Physical Access Controls in the House Data Center--reported the need to strengthen the physical access and detection controls over the House data center. Management implemented our corrective actions prior to the issuance of the report. The third report, Backbone Ubiquitous Data Network (BUDnet) Controls Were Generally Effective--assessed the high-speed backbone network that provides connectivity to computer systems and supports the local area networks of the various House offices. The audit found that the access controls minimized the vulnerabilities that threaten the network from external and internal attacks. However, we did identify several areas where security of the House BUDnet could be enhanced. Management promptly initiated the recommended enhancements found during the audit.
Our audit staff also provides management advisory services related to the House's efforts in procuring and developing new systems using the House's System Development Life Cycle procedures. During CY 2000, we assisted in the planning, development and testing of the Fixed Asset Inventory Management System so that management can be assured that the system, when placed into production, meets its goals for information