Bush budgets $52B for IT

President Bush will seek $52 billion for federal information technology programs in fiscal 2003 — a dramatic 15.6 percent increase — to fund administration priorities such as homeland security projects.

The increase — up from $45 billion in fiscal 2002 — is also tied to the administration's push for "better use of IT to drive performance," said Mark Forman, associate director for information technology and e-government at the Office of Management and Budget.

"This IT budget represents an unprecedented review of the major systems in the federal government," Forman said. The review included rating agencies on how well they implemented the president's five management agenda items — including e-government — and how well agencies presented their business cases on why the systems would improve their performance.

In a telephone briefing with reporters Feb. 1, Forman said the budget request, scheduled for official release Feb. 4, 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 for classified programs or for block grants for state and local IT investments in emergency personnel, he said.

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."

Information security funding, a significant part of the IT budget, is increasing faster than funding for other budget items and includes programs to support the Office of Homeland Security and Richard Clarke, the president's cyberspace security adviser, Forman said.

Forman attributed the increase to two factors: OMB's requirement that funding requests for information systems incorporate security needs, and agencies' documentation of their security needs after conducting vulnerability assessments under the Government Information Security Reform Act.

The focus on results appears to be working, said Alan Paller, research director for the SANS Institute, a security education and consulting organization. "This kind of funding increase, and knowing what you're going to do with the money, allows [the government] to fill a leadership role in this area," he said.

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

Forman also said that Bush is committed to the three-year $100 million fund for cross-agency e-government projects. The fund only received $5 million in fiscal 2002.

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