The big payoff

The extended wait — and battle — for this fiscal year's information technology

budget appears to have been worth it.

With the passage of almost all fiscal 2001 appropriations bills, Congress

breathed new life into IT programs once presumed dead, infused modernization

initiatives with much-needed cash and recognized the dependence agencies

have on technology to function and to provide services to the public.

This year's budget process reflects IT's growing importance in helping

agencies meet their missions. "We definitely see a positive growth rate,"

said Mary Freeman, who heads up the budget forecast for the Government Electronics

and Information Technology Association and is a Verizon Federal executive.

"IT budgets have had a nice, steady growth over the years. We expect that

to continue as long as agencies can demonstrate why and how they spend the

money through [the] capital planning [process]."

As of late last week, all but two bills were signed or likely to be

signed by President Clinton. The issues blocking the Treasury bill and the

Commerce, Justice and State spending bill did not involve IT.

IT programs that received some of the most money for fiscal 2001 include

several new, high-profile programs that just two months ago were presumed

dead. Intense lobbying helped the Customs Service's Automated Commercial

Environment beat the odds of little or no funding. The department received

$130 million for the Internet-based system — which is an important first

step for the $2 billion, five-year program to overhaul systems that track

imports into the United States.

"We got enough for ACE," said Woody Hall, the Customs Service's chief

information officer. "We had asked for $210 million for one year to get

started and to keep on a four-year schedule. If we can make up the difference

in year two or three, we'll still be on a four-year schedule."

Another big winner, and one that Congress was questioning throughout

the year, was the Navy Marine Corps Intranet. NMCI will tie together the

Navy and Marines' numerous networks worldwide by outsourcing the networks

to a single vendor. It was delayed repeatedly because lawmakers balked over

a number of issues, including how to pay for the $6.9 billion program.

Congress did not authorize money for NMCI as a separate line item in

the Defense Department budget because the Navy plans to use its existing

IT budget. Richard Danzig, secretary of the Navy, said by centralizing all

IT purchases with one vendor, Electronic Data Systems Corp., NMCI will cost

about $1.2 billion a year, $400 million less than the $1.6 billion the Navy

currently spends annually on computers it owns and maintains.

Congress also was kind to the State Department, leaving intact one of

the department's most critical new items — appropriating $17 million for

several pilot programs aimed at connecting all 40 government agencies with

an overseas presence through a common network. The plan is one of the recommendations

of the Overseas Presence Advisory Panel, which was formed in 1998 after

the bombings of U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The panel's report, released in November 1999, found American embassies

equipped with "antiquated, grossly inefficient and incompatible information

technology systems."

Bruce Brown, senior policy adviser to State's chief financial officer, said

that with the capital funds appropriations and fees for expedited passport

applications, State will be able to fund the program for 2001. "Clearly,

what you want to do you never have enough money to do, but they approved

our requests, for which we are grateful," he said.

Funding Security

Many governmentwide cyber- security programs, at risk of getting cut

earlier in the year, survived the budget process. For instance, the Scholarship

for Service initiative that is part of President Clinton's Federal Cyber

Services training and education program, which the administration believes

would bolster information security throughout government, received its full

request (see box, left).

But some agencies' separate security requests did not fare as well. "There

has been a much greater focus on the cross-agency initiatives," said Roger

Baker, chief information officer at Commerce. "They came together much later

[than individual bureau and agency budget requests], and we did much more

publicity on those because they are critical for us to do security in [the]

agency. I hope we had some influence on those getting funded."

For example, Commerce's individual security requests were denied, and

the Agriculture Department received only $3 million, half of what the president

requested, to toughen security at that department, said Joseph Leo, chief

information officer at USDA. "More must be done, and we'll be back formulating

our [fiscal] 2002 request," he said. "Additional resources are necessary

to get on top of it."

Perhaps one of the biggest winners is the National Science Foundation.

The agency received its largest budget increase in history — a 12 percent

hike to more than $4.4 billion. Some of that made it into IT programs. Although

several programs such as the Information Technology Research (ITR) program,

a five-year, multiagency program managed by NSF to solicit university research

in emerging areas of IT, were given less than what Clinton had asked for,

the budget is a good one, said George Strawn, executive officer of NSF's

Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate. "Three-quarters

of a loaf is better than none," Strawn said.

Although NSF did not get the full $190 million increase it requested

for ITR, it did receive $125 million more for ITR's research component and

the full $45 million it requested to enhance ITR's terascale computing component.

The Department of Health and Human Services is going to do well in the

budget race, but it will take a month or so after the bill passes to figure

out just where its IT dollars are going.

"NIH is going to get a lot more money than they asked for, and [the

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] will, too," an HHS IT official

said. "How that gets operationalized into those budgets will be decided

later. But overall, HHS will do better than the president's budget."

But HHS did not get everything it wanted, including a $75 million request

to develop the Enterprise Infrastructure Management program, a plan to integrate

and streamline HHS' 13 operating divisions by placing them under one IT

umbrella. Brian Burns, HHS deputy CIO and the plan's creator, said HHS

still would be able to find the money to move it forward, but at a slower

pace.

Congress continued to fund NASA's Earth Observing System Data and Information

System, a controversial international research program to study the Earth's

land, oceans, atmosphere and ice to improve weather forecasts and the ability

to predict how climate will change. In past years, Congress has criticized

EOSDIS for cost overruns and delays. Congress gave the program $277 million

for fiscal 2001, including $35 million more than requested.

DOD's Explosive IT Budget

The Defense Department continued to get funding for key IT programs,

with the Army receiving more than it expected. The Army, the service traditionally

least successful in lobbying for additional funds, received a large chunk

of DOD's IT budget — $3.2 billion — which took the other services by surprise,

according to Gen. Erik Shinseki, Army chief of staff. "Our Navy and Air

Force friends have been blown away by that," he said.

The Army received the additional funds in large part because it is undergoing

a massive transformation that includes a large IT component. The changes

are designed to make the service a more mobile and more lethal force, armed

with a broad array of information technologies to help increase its power,

reduce the number of people to support logistics, provide greater awareness

of the battlefield and to aid commanders in making decisions faster than

their adversaries.

Still, some Army leaders and service advocates insist that DOD could

use more. "We never have enough money," said Gen. John Abrams, commander

of the Army's Training and Doctrine Command, the organization charged with

overseeing a large part of the Army transformation.

Modernization Bonanza

Other big-ticket modernization programs fared well.

The FBI received $20.7 million in base funding for its Technology Upgrade

Plan, formerly called eFBI. And the Federal Aviation Administration's capital

modernization program received $2.7 billion. Congress also made funds available

to modernize the Coast Guard's aging vessels and aircraft.

"We're very pleased with our budget for this year," said Monte Belger,

the FAA's acting deputy administrator. However, while the capital modernization

program is funded well enough to bring new technology to the air traffic

control system, "the only areas where we have any kind of concern is in

the operations budget," from which the FAA could hire more controllers,

he said.

The FAA also received more than it requested for Free Flight Phase One,

which will test new technologies needed to provide pilots with more control

over setting in-flight routes. The program received $177.8 million, a slight

increase to enhance deployment of the Departure Spacing Program, said Robert

Voss, deputy director of Free Flight Phase One for the FAA.

But Free Flight Phase Two, which is intended to expand the use of the

technologies being tested at several control centers and terminal radar

control facilities, received $15 million, 40 percent less than the $25 million

it requested. "We'll just have to ramp up a little bit slower," Voss said.

Congress also pumped $72 million into the Internal Revenue Service budget

for its modernization program, giving the IRS a total of $330 million to

use for upgrading its systems. The IRS has asked Congress to approve $200

million out of that pot for next year to start the planning and design phase

of the project.

"This year will be the first year we start getting into some heavy spending,"

IRS CIO Paul Cosgrave said. "We anticipate a second request before the fiscal

year is out." Cosgrave said he is happy with the agency's share and that

it is "well funded" for its plan to move the IRS to a digital agency.

Cosgrave said the IRS will have to return to Congress in the spring

to ask for more money with which the agency can covert the its tape-based

master file into digital technology. "That is the heart of the program to

replace all that technology where we store all the records," he said. Next

spring, the IRS will install a modernized telephone system to handle phone

traffic automatically, cutting the number of staff members needed to run

the system.

Congress also provided $123 million to keep the aging Automated Commercial

System running for another year and $5.4 million for a National Trade Data

System, a database to process all trade-related data and financial transactions.

It will be at least two years before consumers begin to see changes

at U.S. borders, Customs' CIO Hall said. In the meantime, the 17-year-old

ACS program will continue to sputter. "We have already begun upgrading.

It is half done. But we won't be able to finish that until we get the second

part of the funding," Hall said.

Within days of President Clinton's signature on the appropriations bill,

Customs will issue a request for bids.

Congress approved modest requests from the National Archives and Records

Administration. It agreed to the recordkeeping agency's request for about

$8 million to spend on several IT projects. Nothing was cut and nothing

was added. "We're quite pleased with the bipartisan support" from Congress,

said John Constance, a NARA legislative affairs specialist.

Among the Archives' IT requests were $1.3 million to continue work to

improve its online information system. Funding is to be used to improve

the delivery of Web content, including information from NARA databases;

to allow electronic submissions of government documents to the Federal Register;

and to enable electronic submission of requests from agencies and the public

for NARA services. In addition, NARA received $563,000 to continue multiyear

development of an electronic records archive intended to make possible long-term

storage of electronic records regardless of past and future formats.

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