Colin Powell testifies for 'broad-based Internet access' for department employees worldwide
Improving the State Department's information technology systems is among Secretary of State Colin Powell's top priorities, he told House appropriators Thursday.
Powell appeared before the House Appropriations Committee's Commerce, Justice, State and the Judiciary Subcommittee in support of State's fiscal 2002 budget.
The Bush administration's fiscal 2002 budget request includes $210 million for improving the department's IT infrastructure — $113.2 million more than fiscal 2001 spending levels.
Powell testified that IT infrastructure was among his three highest-priority items. Other items include embassy construction and security — including information security — and hiring new workers.
"Along with well-built, secure and modern embassies, we want broad-based Internet access for all our people," Powell told House appropriators. "I want every employee in the Department of State, no matter where they are located throughout the world, to have access to the Internet — access to the power of the information revolution — so that they can get their jobs done in a more efficient way."
The funding also will help the department modernize its classified information systems, he said. A key initiative is to fully deploy State's OpenNet Plus, which will provide for sensitive but unclassified e-mail and Internet access.
The budget request of $210 million will fund the department's capital investment fund, which is the principal fund for IT enhancements.
Another $63 million from expedited passports fees will finance the Information Resources Management Central Fund, enabling the department to make vital IT investments and provide for more effective interaction among agencies in the foreign affairs community.
Although lawmakers promised they would support the budget request, they voiced some skepticism that changes at State had been promised before.
Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) said that the department's leadership has not placed a priority on management issues and that State's bureaucracy has made it a difficult organization to lead. Rogers told Powell that he will be watching to see "whether you can succeed in dragging the State Department into at least the 18th century."
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