Homeland security IT spending lags

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Most of the federal money made available after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is not going to information technology projects, but technology will play a larger role as agencies determine their homeland security needs during the coming months, industry experts said Jan. 7 at the Federal Convention on Emerging Technologies in Las Vegas.

The Government Electronics and Information Technology Association released its annual evaluation of the federal IT market in November 2001, but all of the interviews for the information assurance study occurred before Sept. 11. So GEIA went back for a look at how the new homeland security mission has changed the market.

The organization discovered that needs have changed, but little funding has made its way to agencies, said Cal Shintani, co-chairman of the information assurance study and a vice president of business development and strategic planning at Veridian.

Of the $40 billion emergency supplemental funding provided by the White House and Congress, about $70 million has gone to IT. And almost half of that went to the FBI. Funding for activities under the USA Patriot Act had similarly small numbers for IT projects and programs, in view of the overall funding provided, Shintani said. The USA Patriot Act gives government investigators broad powers to track wireless phone calls, intercept e-mail messages, monitor computer use and listen to voice mail messages.

For the most part, the language out of Congress since Sept. 11 has been for unfunded programs that likely will receive money in coming budgets as evaluations are completed, he said. This includes studies into the feasibility of integrating biometrics into the FBI's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) and a rapid identification and warning center for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It also includes the decision to make the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) into a bureau within the Treasury Department, giving the office more responsibility.

Agencies are also mirroring the movement in the commercial sector to re-evaluate business continuity plans. After Sept. 11, many of the most well-prepared companies — those in the financial sector — found that their plans did not really provide the continuity they needed, said Frank Hauck, executive vice president at EMC Corp.

The biggest problem that financial companies on and near Wall Street faced in the hours and days following the terrorist attacks was the electronic backup of all their files. Many firms had mirror sites separate from their main site — a logistical arrangement that agencies are realizing they must put in place. But even those firms are rethinking the business and IT decisions concerning the information and applications that are really mission-critical and must be brought back up immediately in the event of a disaster.

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