Bush budgets $52 billion for IT

President Bush will seek $52 billion for federal information technology programs in fiscal 2003, a dramatic 15.6 percent increase stemming from the administration's focus on using IT to improve government performance and the response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The request to increase the IT budget from $45 billion in fiscal 2002 to $52 billion in fiscal 2003 is necessary to focus on the three goals outlined in the president's State of the Union address — terrorism, homeland security and the economy — said Mark Forman, associate director for information technology and e-government at the Office of Management and Budget.

It is also tied to the major management push from the administration for "better use of IT to drive performance," he said.

"This IT budget represents an unprecedented review of the major systems in the federal government," he said. The review included a scorecard for the president's five management agenda items — including e-government — and a focus on the requirement that every system request have a business case for how the money would improve performance.

In a telephone briefing with reporters today, Forman said the budget request includes an estimated $18 billion for more than 900 major projects and $11.5 billion for another 2,000 "significant" projects. The request does not include money that ultimately will be earmarked for "black budget" spending on classified programs or that is going into block grants to state and local IT investments for emergency personnel, he said.

In fiscal 2002, the federal government spent $45 billion on IT, but Congress approved some IT funding as part of the supplemental spending passed after Sept. 11.

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee's Technology and Procurement Policy Subcommittee, said the $52 billion request "reflects the importance of technology in winning the war on terrorism and the significant benefits of e-government for all government agencies."

A significant part of the IT budget that is growing in relation to the rest of the request is for information security, including programs to support the Office of Homeland Security and Richard Clarke, the president's cyberspace security adviser, Forman said.

Forman attributed the growth in information security funding to two factors: OMB's requirement that funding requests for information systems include appropriate security requests and the agency responses to the vulnerability assessments performed under the Government Information Security Reform Act. As agencies dealt with both of these requirements, the business case clearly called for increased funding to ensure the security of their systems, Forman said.

The request for double-digit growth in the IT budget comes when overall domestic discretionary spending is being held flat.

"I think it signifies the recognition of the way technology can be applied to improve services...improve homeland security and contribute to the president's goals," said Alan Balutis, executive director of the Federation of Government Information Processing Councils.

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