The big payoff
- By Colleen O'Hara, FCW Staff
- Nov 05, 2000
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
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.
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
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
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.
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,
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
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.