Intercepts

Show Us the Money

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks will obviously result in additional Defense Department spending on information technology. The big questions now are: Where will the money be spent, and on what?

An annual survey, unveiled Oct. 9 by the Government Electronics and Information Technology Association, shows that—for the first time since experts can remember—DOD will spend nearly as much on IT as civilian agencies.

DOD spent $20.5 billion on IT in fiscal 2001 and will spend $25 billion in fiscal 2002, said Mary Freeman, market research manager for Verizon Federal and GEIA's budget forecast team chairwoman. Civilian agency IT spending traditionally has outpaced DOD. But this year, spending is virtually equal. And GEIA is projecting strong growth through its five-year forecast of 5.6 percent annually.

DOD's spending hike is only partially tied to the attacks and the war on terrorism, the forecast team said. It also results from changes in the way the Pentagon reports IT spending, according to Freeman.

One major question still looming is where DOD will spend its money. Although there is new money in the till, some projects may be put on hold to make way for those focused on anti-terrorism, experts said. The largest growth is expected in command and control and tactical communications.

John Gilligan, Air Force deputy chief information officer, said at an Oct. 11 panel discussion that no projects have been pulled from the table, yet. But he noted that security and building robust systems are clearly near the top of the priority list.

Timing Is Everything

Last month's attacks forced the postponement of a Sept. 11 House hearing on DOD's long-troubled Standard Procurement System.

The hearing was scheduled to address an unusually critical report from the General Accounting Office, which stated in part, "DOD's management of SPS is a lesson in how not to justify, make and monitor the implementation of [IT] investment decisions." DOD officials, however, defended the program to GAO in their written response to the criticisms. SPS is meant to automate the often-complex process that Pentagon procurement shops use to buy $130 billion in goods and services each year. American Management Systems Inc. won the SPS contract in 1997. The system was scheduled to be rolled out in March 2000, but has been plagued by delays and is likely to slip further, GAO officials said.

A staff member on the House Government Reform Committee's National Security, Veterans Affairs and International Relations Subcommittee said there are currently no plans to reschedule the hearing. The future of the program remains murky, but for now the focus on responding to Osama bid Laden and company has taken the heat off SPS.

IT Firms Reap DOD Kudos

A bright spot following the attacks has been the continuing support from the IT industry. Navy Deputy CIO Ron Turner said the Navy received countless offers of support. "We had more offers for more help than we knew what to do" with. Gilligan mirrored those comments. "The outpouring from industry was really gratifying and almost overwhelming," he said.

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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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