IT leaders feel secure in funding

Congress may be poised to begin its budget games again, but the information technology community already knows where it stands.

Several government and industry executives attending this week's 16th annual Information Processing Interagency Conference in Orlando, Fla., said that they believe spending for homeland security initiatives will not be at the expense of other IT programs.

"Some of the things they are trying to do won't get done without infrastructure, so the pace is at a feverish pitch," said Robert Golas, Oracle Corp.'s executive director of business development.

Homeland security systems and e-government "are going to be intertwined. All of it will have to fit," Golas said.

Nevertheless, government agencies will face new competition for limited dollars, according to Rick Turner, chief information officer at the Federal Trade Commission and former president of the Government Information Technology Executive Council, which sponsors IPIC.

"There is new competition from first responders," he said of emergency workers at the local level. And everyone is looking for money from a fixed pot, he said.

The administration's fiscal 2003 budget request for IT spending is one of the biggest in government history, and IT officials say homeland security efforts can be accomplished without robbing money from other IT programs in the works.

"We're relatively well-insulated," said John Dickson, director of computer systems services at the National Institutes of Health's Center for Information Technology. "IT within NIH floats all boats higher."

However, Kathleen Rundle, associate CIO of the Agriculture Department's National Information Technology Center and president of GITEC, said that a balancing act "will be a challenge. It won't happen without work."

Industry representatives see a silver lining in homeland security initiatives and the push toward e-government at the same time.

"Evolution will solve the problem over time," said Greg Dicks, vice president of U.S. Government Systems for Entrust Inc. "The notion that [homeland security] money will come out of the hide of our infrastructure isn't true. The failure to harden the infrastructure will leave us vulnerable to attack."


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