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Fee furor puts House panel in a spin

Tongues have been wagging about payments made by private companies to participate in the CISO Exchange, a cybersecurity effort that gives them access to government decision makers. Now it looks like Rep. Tom Davis, the chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform, is easing back on official support for the group.

Davis has pulled the plug on the committee's staff director, Melissa Wojciak, serving as co-chair of the CISO Exchange's advisory board, according to a report on The group was launched in February as a public-private effort to improve data security on federal systems--a much-needed initiative, going by the failing grades given by Davis' panel to federal systems in an annual review of performance.

At the beginning of April, the CISO Exchange named its advisory board, which included federal executives from a number of agencies and representatives from Computer Sciences Corp. and NetSec.

Over the past few days, however, it has emerged that the industry members are paying $75,000 each to take part, and that four empty places on the advisory board are available to companies that pay the same fee, according to Government Computer News.

Now Davis's staff are working to counteract any suggestion of impropriety. "We don't want any role or input in any fees. We were not aware of fees being charged," said David Marin, deputy staff director for the reform committee, quoted by GCN. Davis does not want "any would-be sponsor to believe that sponsoring the Exchange means they will have an inside track to him or committee staff," Marin is also quoted as saying.

It's not clear whether Davis will continue to officially back the CISO Exchange. If the House committee does go on with supporting the effort, it's likely to have to do it without Computer Sciences Corp., which says has quit the advisory board.