IT needs more funding
The federal information technology community is breathing a collective sigh
A budget season that started out looking gloomy for IT funding turned
out to be a bonanza. In this week's cover story on the fiscal 2001 budget
that Congress passed — for the most part — in the past few weeks, many federal
IT professionals are almost giddy about the money they received.
It's hard to blame them. For months, Congress criticized and threatened
to cut numerous IT programs, everything from President Clinton's Federal
Cyber Services program, which aims to shore up information security at agencies
and to attract fresh IT talent to the federal government, to broad modernization
programs such as the Navy's intranet program, which will tie together its
disparate networks worldwide. But in the end, the money flowed.
Well, sort of. What we may be observing is a federal workforce so terrified
that it was going to go wanting for IT funds that a few crumbs seem like
a generous helping. Consider information security. This was supposed to
be the year that security took center stage in the IT arena. But Clinton
received only half of what was considered a modest information security
Congress threw some specific money at security. But major programs are
still underfunded, leaving agencies and the White House to borrow from other
IT programs if they want to adequately protect federal systems. Under the
Federal Cyber Services program, the National Science Foundation received
money to offer scholarships to students, but the Office of Personnel Management
received nothing for training and certifying federal IT workers in security.
The Treasury Department received only partial funding for public-key infrastructure
No one disputes the importance of information security, so it is difficult
to arrive at an explanation for why Congress is unwilling to provide the
proper funding. Before Congress holds another hearing to beat agencies over
the head about security, legislators should consider whether they have given
agencies adequate resources to do the job.