Stimulus bill primes the pump

Federal information technology contractors could see a flurry of activity this year if Congress approves the roughly $32 billion in information technology investments included the Obama administration’s economic stimulus bill (S.1).

However, the giant $825 billion spending package may also have the effect of tightening purse strings elsewhere.

“I think it may brighten the IT outlook up a bit,” said Deniece Peterson, principal analyst at Input, a market research firm. “It is significant money to go through at this level, to agencies who were anticipating really tight budgets.” Many analysts had worried that the diversion of funds to bailout plans would sharply reduce the amount available to agencies for discretionary spending, including technology projects.

House lawmakers have proposed $20 billion for health IT, $6 billion for high-speed broadband networks, and $2.5 billion for research by the National Science Foundation, according to a release from House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (DWis.).

The full House and the Senate still must vote on the package. Electronic health records would be one of the largest items.

The health IT spending would pay for infrastructure, training, grants to states, and incentives to doctors and hospitals to use health IT, including individual payments of $40,000 to $65,000 to doctors who adopt electronic applications, according to a news release from House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.).

The bill would require the federal government to take a leadership role in developing technical standards by 2010 for a nationwide exchange of health data. It would put the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT in.

Other IT-related items in the package are $10 billion for science research facilities, research and instrumentation; $276 million in cybersecurity improvements at the State Department; $245 million for Farm Service Agency IT; and $100 million to update IT for the Women’s, Infants and Children’s nutrition program, according to the committee’s report on the stimulus bill, named the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

“We were pleasantly surprised by many of the funding requests and authorizations in the stimulus package,” said Trey Hodgkins, vice president of federal government programs at the Technology Association of America.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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