Homeland security to drive up IT spending

Civilian agencies on the frontlines of homeland security will see the most dramatic growth in their information technology budgets during the next five years, according to an industry study released last week. As funding priorities shift to underscore the importance of fighting terrorism, the Transportation and Justice departments will see the biggest growth of all the civilian agencies in their IT budgets — nearly 8 percent a year during the next five years — according to the Government Electronics and Information Technology Association. Both agencies will look for new technology tools to help fight terrorism.

The State Department budget will grow significantly as well — as agency officials beef up security at embassies worldwide and play their part in protecting the nation's critical infrastructure.

Overall, total discretionary budgets are expected to grow 3.3 percent each year, but total federal IT budgets are forecast to grow 5.6 percent annually, according to the GEIA report.

Several agencies already are asking for money to buy new technology or to speed up existing programs.

Treasury has launched a new center that uses technology to track the financial dealings of suspected to terrorists. Justice wants cutting-edge tools to help track down those responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

"Treasury's course was forever altered after [Sept. 11]," said Jennifer Smith, an analyst for Lockheed Martin Corp., speaking last week at a GEIA conference.

Treasury includes a number of agencies that will play critical roles in strengthening homeland defense, including the Customs Service, which protects the nation's borders, and two law enforcement agencies — the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Secret Service, which will have a major role in counterterrorism.

Likewise, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, part of Justice, is seeking a substantial increase in its budget for technology to keep track of foreigners entering the United States. INS has been the "poster child for mismanagement in government," and issues relating to border control must be fixed, said Thomas Reinhardt, a business development manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers. "We've got to figure out how to do this."

Big budget increases also are likely for the Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for public health as well as tracking down and thwarting potential bioterrorist attacks. In the immediate future, it will see a $57 million increase for vaccine research.Links:

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