Defense IT funding approved

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Dec. 4 approved the fiscal 2002 Defense appropriations bill, which includes funding for several major information technology projects, including Army transformation and Defense Department financial management systems.

However, President Bush said he will veto the bill if $15 billion in emergency anti-terrorism spending, which was added through an amendment by committee chairman Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), is not removed.

The $317.6 billion bill includes $16.9 billion for procurement initiatives -- $500 million more than the Bush administration requested -- and includes the Army's transformation project, space systems for the Air Force and full funding for Navy programs that are "on track," said Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), adding that the bill also includes a pay raise for all military personnel.

"Our first priority is the quality of life of our men and women in uniform," which is why the committee fully funded a 5 percent pay raise for all and "recommends additional funding for those grades and particular skills that are hard to fill," Inouye said.

He said the bill reduced funding for consultants and for programs that are delayed, but it does provide $100 million for "additional progress in the DOD's financial management systems."

Byrd caused the greatest stir when he went forward with his plan to introduce an amendment, which the committee passed, that added $15 billion to the $20 billion supplemental amount that the White House has already approved.

Byrd's $15 billion emergency funding, which is divided evenly between recovery aid and domestic security, includes $275 million to improve communications between the FBI and other federal agencies, $150 million for cybersecurity initiatives, $238 million for airport security, $550 million for security at nuclear power plants and federal facilities, and $50 million for port security.

Byrd said he could not wait for the spring supplemental that President Bush has requested to address these issues and was even more perplexed by an unsolicited letter he received last week from Tom Ridge, director of the Office of Homeland Security, saying there was no need at this time for additional resources beyond what the administration has requested.

"Next year will be my 50th year in Congress. That's a half-century, and I've never had this happen before," Byrd said. "It's a very remarkable letter, yet just yesterday [Dec. 3], Ridge issued the administration's third terror alert."

According to published reports this morning, President Bush told congressional leaders that he would veto the DOD appropriation if the added anti-terrorism spending is not removed.

"The president made it plain as day: If you're going to attach anything else to it, attach it, send it to me, I'll veto it, I'll send it right back to you and then you can go to work," White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said after Bush's weekly morning huddle with the four House and Senate leaders.

Byrd said it is not his intent to hold up the Defense appropriation, which is why he included language in the amendment for President Bush to use the added dollars as emergency funds. "We need to do our duty," Byrd said. "There's no need for the president to veto the bill. He can simply turn off the faucet when it comes to him, or turn it on."

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