Security runs through DOT budget

The Bush administration's budget request for the Transportation Department makes security its priority.

The proposal asks for $59.3 billion in fiscal 2003 -- an 8-percent increase when adjusted for a federally mandated reduction in highway spending. Of that, $4.8 billion is slated for the fledgling Transportation Security Administration (TSA), created in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The budget request increases spending for DOT information technology by $100 million to $2.6 billion.

"In short, it gets the job done," Deputy Transportation Secretary Michael Jackson said at a news conference Feb. 4.

Overall funding for the Federal Aviation Administration dropped because some of its security responsibilities are being shifted to the TSA.

The administration is requesting $14 billion for FAA, which is a 1.6 percent decrease. Of that, the $7.5 billion for operations represents a $359 million increase with slightly more money to reduce runway incursions, promote information security and replace an outdated personnel computer system.

The proposal also continues funding to support systems, such as next-generation weather radar, the oceanic automation program and satellite navigation.

"There are real tech challenges around safety," said FAA Administrator Jane Garvey, adding that the Wide Area Augmentation System, which offers lateral and vertical guidance for landings, is solidly funded. "The IT budget looks strong."

The request for the new navigation system is $126 million, which is up from $90 million in fiscal 2002.

Both the Office of Information Services (OIS), and facilities and equipment, which covers hardware and software, saw modest increases in the request.

The administration is asking for $30 million, which is about a $2 million increase, for the OIS, which oversees IT services; $1.8 million is set aside for critical security initiatives and bolstering the computer security incident response center, which detects cyberattacks on FAA systems.

Money is requested for several other IT programs, including Free Flight Phase 1 and Phase 2, and the Next Generation Very High Frequency Air/Ground Communications System (NEXCOM), but not always in greater amounts. For instance, funding for the Oceanic Automation System to provide upgraded air traffic control over the Pacific Ocean is $87.4 million, a significant drop from the $164 million allocated in fiscal 2002.

In contrast, the proposal includes $7.1 billion for the Coast Guard, the largest increase in history.

"We count our budget in M's," said Vice Adm. Thomas Collins, vice commandant of the Coast Guard. "Now we're starting to count it in B's."

Two IT programs win: $500 million for Deepwater, a multibillion-dollar procurement effort for the replacement ships, aircraft and the systems that connect them, and $90 million to modernize the maritime 911 system that picks up digital distress signals.

"Deepwater is a major winner," Collins said. "It represents strong support. We're thrilled."

Deepwater received $320 million in funding for fiscal 2002 while maritime 911 got $42 million.

DOT got mixed reviews for its management of e-government. The administration called on the agency to strengthen its business cases for major IT projects, particularly those within the FAA, but recognized its implementation of e-business process initiatives and its leadership role for online rulemaking.

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