Anti-crime measures top spending bill priorities

Focusing on crime and terrorism Congress pumped funding into dozens of law enforcement information technology systems and database-development projects in the catchall spending bill it passed last week before adjourning.

The 1 198-page omnibus appropriations bill folded into the 1997 Defense Department appropriations measure boosted funding for FBI counterterrorism and fingerprint-identification systems. Meanwhile the enclosed Illegal Immigration Reform and Responsibility Act of 1996 provides close to $60 million for Border Patrol automation and IT programs.

Electronic Library Funds

Apart from law enforcement Congress provided $150 million for development of electronic libraries through the Museum and Library Services Act of 1996 and the Library Services and Technology Act. About 96 percent of the money which will flow through the states will go toward enhancing electronic links among libraries with an emphasis on serving people who have difficulty accessing traditional libraries.

The omnibus bill also strongly backed the Census Bureau and its Census 2000 program boosting funding by $60 million for geographic and address list preparation and data capture and processing systems. The GSA's plans for a Post-FTS 2000 governmentwide network contract did not fare well in the bill which delayed the release of the Post-FTS 2000 request for proposals until Feb. 15 1997.

All major DOD IT programs as well as key communications and IT line items in the budgets of the three services emerged virtually untouched in the House/Senate conference. The Army's Sustaining Base Information Services system came back from near death when the conference restored $17.5 million in 1997 funding withheld by the House and reversed an Army decision to terminate the program.

Overall the omnibus bill covers funding for DOD the departments of Commerce Education Health and Human Services State and Justice the judiciary the General Services Administration and related agencies.

The FBI won $157.7 million in funding under the Comprehensive Counter-terrorism Act. The money was allocated to 21 different programs many backed by IT or database systems.

This includes $11.5 million for field electronic technicians $5 million for a Computer Investigation Threat Center $1.6 million for Computer Analysis and Emergency Response Teams $1.4 million for a hazardous response forensic database and $5.5 million for the Combined DNA Index System.

While the omnibus bill also provided substantial funding for two major FBI systems - the National Crime Information Center 2000 and the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System - Congress used the bill to criticize both sharply for cost overruns and delays. NCIC will receive an additional $30 million for NCIC 2000 in June 1997 through the DOJ's Working Capital Fund plus an additional $8.3 million from the bill.

The FBI acknowledged this year that IAFIS is nearly $120 million over budget and 18 months behind schedule. NCIC 2000 to which Congress has given $400 million since 1991 is more than $104 million over budget and nearly four years behind schedule.

The immigration bill calls for development of a machine-readable Border Crossing Identification Card based upon biometric characteristics as well as an Automated Entry-Exit Control System which Congress wants to see in operation within two years.

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