House Signs Software Deal With Microsoft

Posted October 15, 2003 at 4:25pm

House Chief Administrative Officer Jay Eagen and Microsoft have signed a three-year contract designed to create software consistency throughout lawmakers’ offices.

Under the new program, House offices will be eligible for licenses for Microsoft Office Professional Suite and upgrades for the Microsoft Desktop Operating System without having to pay fees from their Members’ Representational Allowance.

“It allows us to have some consistency of software across the House enterprise, which currently we don’t have,” said a House aide familiar with the contract.

Although the House maintains a list of minimum technical requirements, the aide said, not all offices necessarily meet those standards.

In some cases, the aide noted, offices have declined to upgrade older systems, such as Microsoft Windows 98, because of the cost.

The contract “remove[s] the barrier of, ‘Gee, I can’t afford to do this upgrade,’” the aide said.

Although Members will not be required to pay for the software themselves, they will still be required to pay installation fees, which can reach approximately $200 per computer.

The contract will also allow House officials to track the number of software licenses issued, which could be used in case of a destructive virus or other disaster that disabled numerous computers.

Although the House previously signed an agreement with Microsoft, that contract has long since expired and Members have been on their own for several years in purchasing software for their offices. Many offices are now outfitted with Microsoft Windows 2000 or Windows XP systems.

The contract includes an option to allow the House to extend the program for up to an additional two years. It will be evaluated by House officials after the initial three-year period.

“Looking at ways to improve and strengthen the technological infrastructure of the House continues to be a top priority for [House Administration] Chairman [Bob] Ney and the committee. This is one more step in that effort,” said Brian Walsh, a spokesman for the Ohio Republican.

The House Administration panel, which is urging offices not to purchase new software until the program officially begins, will issue a “Dear Colleague” letter in coming weeks with instructions for enrollment.