Bill gives CIO more funds

The House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Department Operations, Nutrition and Foreign Agriculture this month sent a bill to the full committee that would transfer more information technology funds to the USDA's chief information officer.

The USDA Year 2000 Compliance Enhancement Act (H.R. 3280) would transfer at least 4 percent of what each USDA bureau or agency spends on information resources every year to the control of CIO Anne Thomson Reed, who must use the money to create a departmentwide information system and to meet Year 2000 compliance requirements.

The bill is an effort to improve the management of USDA systems by centralizing control of them under the CIO. Currently, each component agency is responsible for its own IT budget and procurement— a situation that has spawned different systems that cannot talk to each other.

AWIPS cost rises

The National Weather Service's Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System may cost millions more than what was anticipated a couple years ago.

AWIPS, which will for the first time integrate satellite, radar and sensor data on one workstation, will cost $590 million to $647 million depending on whether the department runs into any further problems with development, according to a Booz-Allen & Hamilton Inc. report. The report was discussed at a hearing of the House Science Committee's Subcommittee on Energy and Environment this month. About two years ago Congress placed a $550 million funding cap on the program.

AWIPS, which is the cornerstone of NWS' $4.5 billion modernization program, was estimated to cost $350 million in 1985. The program is expected to be completed by the end of next year.

Freeh asks for ISI funds

The General Services Administration last week released a draft request for proposals for a massive Information Sharing Initiative (ISI) being undertaken by the FBI.

The release of the draft comes on the heels of Capitol Hill appropriations hearings in which FBI Director Louis Freeh made his case for $50 million in fiscal 1999 to begin rolling out the project, which should enable FBI offices and divisions to more easily share electronic information needed to conduct investigations.

"As I look at where the FBI is today in terms of its own information technology capabilities, I must admit that we are several years and many dollars away from possessing the critical information technology infrastructure that will allow the FBI to realize the full benefits from its own case and intelligence information, much less be able to share that information electronically with others," Freeh told the Senate subcommittee overseeing appropriations for the Justice Department. The ISI project is expected to cost the department $430 million over four years.

The draft RFP for ISI is available at

Treasury needs $453M for Y2K

The Treasury Department will need nearly half a billion dollars to meet the deadline to reprogram its computers so that they can properly process dates after 1999, Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin told House appropriators this month. Testifying before the House Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Treasury, Postal Service and General Government, Rubin said Treasury needs $200 million in the fiscal 1998 Supplemental Budget Request and another $253 million for fiscal 1999 to make its computers Year 2000-compliant.

McCain defends bill

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) appeared this month before the Senate Rules and Administration Committee and urged members to adopt his bill to require the Congressional Research Service to publish reports and briefs on the Internet for public access. "If there's a way to provide our constituents with more information, let's do it," McCain told the committee.

Members seemed sympathetic to McCain's proposal but raised some concerns. Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), the committee's chairman, questioned whether the requirement to post materials on the Internet might "overtax" CRS resources. Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) said the bill should be revised to specify which materials would be automatically posted on the Internet and which ones would be subject to approval before being put online.


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