The difference between the way the Canadian and U.S. governments work was illustrated this week when the U.S. House of Representatives passed a law telling bureaucrats they have to use software smarter.

The Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) includes a software licence optimization provision aimed at minimizing unused and underused software licences.

The Senate still has to pass the bill and President Obama has to sign it, but that didn’t stop one vendor of application management software that might be bought by Washington – no conflict there — from putting out a press release hailing the vote.

In Canada you wouldn’t need legislation. The heads of Treasury Board and the Public Works would issue and order and there it is.

Which is essentially what happened in 2011 when the government created Shared Services Canada in 2011.

FITARA bill grants budget authority to federal agency chief information officers and allows the closure of unnecessary data centres. It also allows the creation of a federal collaboration center to “promote co-ordinated program management practices for the acquisition of IT infrastructure and business applications commonly used by various federal agencies.”

Sounds good. However the Senate has the power to amend House legislation, and they meet in a conference to agree on a unified bill, which means it may be … Well, being Washington who knows when it will pass. FITARA has already been on the agenda for over a year.

The reason why Washington needs legislation to do this is that the President doesn’t have complete control over the bureaucracy, the way the Prime Minister does here. That’s a good thing, or bad, depending on your point of view.

At any rate, here’s an article summing up what’s going on down there.