State funding secures, modernizes

The Bush administration is seeking $891 million for the State Department's information technology projects in fiscal 2003 — a 20 percent increase over the past two years that includes money to strengthen security systems.

As the spotlight shines on the State Department for its role in protecting U.S. embassies overseas and issuing passports and visas for legitimate travelers, the budget includes money to make sure its programs are secured and modernized.

The budget request includes funding for such projects as passport modernization ($23 million), e-mail operations ($14.6 million) and classified connectivity ($53 million) — the State platform that includes e-mail and other classified high-tech tools.

Secretary of State Colin Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Feb. 5 that the State Department is installing its connectivity for classified information. "We want to make sure that we are on the forefront of technology in order to do our job better," Powell said. The budget also includes $71.6 million for consular support and visa applications, a 6 percent increase from $67.5 million in 2002.

It also calls for $1.4 billion for secure diplomatic facilities, including $755 million for security-driven construction, $553 million in upgrades for worldwide security and $52 million for a new Center for Anti-terrorism and Security Training.

Although the Bush administration is requesting slightly less money for State than the department received in fiscal 2002, the agency's budget will have grown 20 percent since 2001 if Congress fully funds the fiscal 2003 budget request.

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