Powell prioritizes State IT

Powell's testimony

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"Net diplomacy"

Improving the State Department's information technology systems is among Secretary of State Colin Powell's top priorities, he told House appropriators Thursday.

Powell appeared before the House Appropriations Committee's Commerce, Justice, State and the Judiciary Subcommittee in support of State's fiscal 2002 budget.

The Bush administration's fiscal 2002 budget request includes $210 million for improving the department's IT infrastructure — $113.2 million more than fiscal 2001 spending levels.

Powell testified that IT infrastructure was among his three highest-priority items. Other items include embassy construction and security — including information security — and hiring new workers.

"Along with well-built, secure and modern embassies, we want broad-based Internet access for all our people," Powell told House appropriators. "I want every employee in the Department of State, no matter where they are located throughout the world, to have access to the Internet — access to the power of the information revolution — so that they can get their jobs done in a more efficient way."

The funding also will help the department modernize its classified information systems, he said. A key initiative is to fully deploy State's OpenNet Plus, which will provide for sensitive but unclassified e-mail and Internet access.

The budget request of $210 million will fund the department's capital investment fund, which is the principal fund for IT enhancements.

Another $63 million from expedited passports fees will finance the Information Resources Management Central Fund, enabling the department to make vital IT investments and provide for more effective interaction among agencies in the foreign affairs community.

Although lawmakers promised they would support the budget request, they voiced some skepticism that changes at State had been promised before.

Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) said that the department's leadership has not placed a priority on management issues and that State's bureaucracy has made it a difficult organization to lead. Rogers told Powell that he will be watching to see "whether you can succeed in dragging the State Department into at least the 18th century."

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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