House OKs emergency millions for IT

A $13 billion emergency increase to the fiscal 2000 federal budget includes

nearly $100 million in additional spending for information technology.

The bill would pour new money into projects ranging from improving security

on computer networks that hold nuclear secrets at the Energy Department

to supplying rural agriculture offices with modern desktop machines.

The emergency spending bill passed the House Wednesday but faces an uncertain

fate in the Senate.

Tucked in with billions to battle drugs in Colombia and millions to save

citrus farmers in Florida is $45 million to be spent on "urgent cybersecurity

needs" at three DOE nuclear weapons laboratories.

The extra money would boost DOE spending on security from $4 million to

$49 million this year. The agency is under fire for lax computer security

that may have enabled a scientist to transfer nuclear weapons secrets to

China.

The Office of Management and Budget complained that the House failed to

throw in another $9 million the administration wanted to jump-start programs

planned for 2001 that would counter cyberterrorism. OMB urged the Senate

to make that add-on.

Responding to natural disasters and low prices that are plaguing farmers,

House members added $38.5 million to the Agriculture Department's Farm Service

Agency budget to buy new computer equipment for county agriculture offices.

Farm Service Agency workers "are hobbled by severely outdated computer systems,"

including some that will lose vendor technical support March 31, lawmakers

said.

For some projects, the spending bill taps money that was not needed for

the Year 2000 computer compliance problem. The House ordered the Transportation

Department to transfer $26.6 million of unspent Year 2000 money to other

accounts within the agency.

And House members trimmed a separate Year 2000 emergency fund from $2.25

billion to $2 billion and ordered $5.5 million of it to be transferred to

Congress.

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