Sharing is focus of homeland IT

The Bush administration is requesting more than $722 million in its fiscal 2003 budget for information technology homeland security programs to fill immediate needs, even though officials say they are still months away from completing the national strategy.

Overall, the White House's budget includes almost $38 billion for homeland security, with requests for four priority areas spread across many agencies: supporting first responders, defending against bioterrorism, securing America's borders and using 21st-century technology to secure the homeland.

The IT programs make up about 2 percent of the homeland security budget, but "the role information technology will play is a considerable one," Tom Ridge, director of the Office of Homeland Security, said at a Feb. 4 briefing with reporters.

The programs are focused on getting rid of the stovepipes that hinder information sharing and increasing protection for the information infrastructure.

To lead information sharing, the budget requests $20 million for a proposed Information Integration Office at the Commerce Department. The office will develop and help implement an "interagency information architecture" that will ensure that existing and new information systems across government can work together.

New systems for information sharing are also proposed, including $7 million for a secure videoconferencing system at the Federal Emergency Management Agency to communicate with the states, and $380 million for an entry/exit visa system at the Immigration and Naturalization Service to better track short-term foreign visitors.

There are several programs and offices with budget requests for protecting the information infrastructure, including a $50 million increase for the cyberwarning National Infrastructure Protection Center at the FBI, bringing its budget to $125 million.

Other initiatives include:

* $5 million for the General Services Administration to conduct a feasibility study of GovNet, the proposed separate intranet for critical federal functions that cannot afford to be disrupted by cyberattacks.

* $11 million for the National Science Foundation to continue the Scholarship for Service program, which provides scholarships for college students studying information security in return for federal service, and grants to colleges and universities to build information security programs.

* $11 million, a $1 million increase, for GSA's Federal Computer Incident Response Center, the central analysis and warning center for civilian agencies.

* $15 million, a $4 million increase, for the National Institute of Standards and Technology's computer security division, which provides technical guidance and support for civilian agencies.

* $20 million for the Energy Department's National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center, which uses the high-performance computing power of DOE's national laboratories to better understand the dependencies between segments of the national infrastructure.

* $30 million for the Defense Department to develop a Cyberspace Warning Intelligence Network that will provide secure real-time collaboration.

* $60 million for DOD, through the National Communications System, to develop a wireless priority access program with the private sector to ensure that emergency personnel can communicate during crises.

* $202 million to create a National Information Management System that links emergency medical responders with public health officials and enables early warning information to be distributed quickly. The budget also includes $175 million to help state and local public health providers begin to buy the technology to access the information.

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