DOD to split IT budget

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Under pressure to provide lawmakers with better information on technology spending, the Defense Department will break its information technology budget into two categories — warfighting and business — beginning in fiscal 2005, the agency's top IT official said last week.

Congress considers IT to be one group covering everything from spy plane radars and communications satellites to payroll and financial management systems. DOD officials believe distinguishing IT between warfighting and business systems will give Congress a better idea of how much the department spends in each area.

Department and industry officials said the new approach should preserve funding for warfighting IT programs as Congress cuts DOD business IT initiatives because of rising costs and mismanagement.

"We need to crisp up our definitions much better," DOD's Chief Information Officer John Stenbit said in an Aug. 25 interview after speaking to attendees of the Air Force IT Conference.

The fiscal 2004 budget discussions with Congress and the Office of Management and Budget convinced Stenbit that DOD needs to change the way it reports IT spending.

Congress reconvenes this week, and among the items on its agenda is the House's $2 billion cut in DOD's 2004 $24 billion IT budget request.

The Bush administration proposed a $380 billion fiscal 2004 budget, including $24 billion for IT systems and initiatives.

DOD wants IT to improve the military's ability to wage the war on terrorism and support its evolving network-centric warfare strategy, through which information becomes an essential part of the military's arsenal.

The House Armed Services Committee recommended a $1.7 billion cut to DOD's fiscal 2004 IT budget, while the House Authorization Committee recommended cuts of $320 million. The $1.7 billion included cuts in 12 department IT programs, such as $160 million from the Navy Marine Corps Intranet. The $320 million was an across-the-board slash in IT spending with the Army losing $60 million, the Navy $100 million, the Air Force $100 million and DOD-wide initiatives $60 million.

The Information Technology Association of America, an Arlington, Va., industry group, is concerned about the IT cuts, said ITAA's department budget analyst. "We view the change that — Stenbit is about to make is a constructive step in balancing the concerns Congress has and DOD's priorities for IT spending," said Brendan Peter, ITAA's senior director for enterprise solutions.

DOD officials have a difficult time explaining and justifying how IT funds are spent each year, according to a House Armed Services Committee report on the fiscal 2004 National Defense Authorization Act released May 16.

"We have some communications [to improve] at the fundamental level about what's IT, how does it work, etc.," Stenbit said.

The Air Force partitioned warfighting and business IT spending for fiscal 2004 because of Congress' perception that DOD was not spending its IT dollars efficiently, said Air Force CIO John Gilligan in an Aug. 26 interview.

"What we need to be able to do is communicate" to Congress, Gilligan said. "We need to communicate more clearly where we're spending the money and what [are] the operational benefits. This is a good news story."

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Tracking the cuts

The House Armed Services Committee's fiscal 2004 National Defense Authorization Act recommends cuts for a number of programs.

Among those cuts:

Army Knowledge Management — $20 million

Navy Military Manpower/Personnel Systems — $4.3 million

Other Navy Military Manpower/Personnel — $30 million

Navy Marine Corps Intranet — $160 million

Air Force Reserve Base Level Communications — $9 million

National Imagery and Mapping Agency, Archive and Dissemination Systems — $10 million

National Imagery and Mapping Agency, Production Information Systems Support — $10 million

Defense Health Programs — $25 million

Total recommended reduction from these 12 programs: $319.6 million

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