The Circuit

TSA is in the Money

Before Congress passed the wartime supplemental appropriations bill July 18 that gave the Transportation Security Administration a loudly requested financial boost, there was some fussing and finger-pointing going on in Washington, D.C.

"You know as well as I do that you cannot expect excellence in government without adequate resources," Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said July 15 at the Excellence in Government 2002 conference. "And, simply put, the TSA is running out of resources.

"Without funds this month, we will be forced to implement truly Draconian steps," Mineta said.

The Office of Management and Budget also weighed in on the matter.

The holdup over emergency funding could force TSA to postpone its more than $1 billion contract for an information technology infrastructure, OMB Director Mitchell Daniels Jr. said at a July 12 press briefing. "I am concerned," said Mark Forman, OMB's associate director of IT and e-government.

Did the dire predictions influence Congress or at least win TSA some sympathy on Capitol Hill?

The agency "did not provide a justification for their [spending] up until a week ago," said John Scofield, spokesman for the majority on the House Appropriations Committee. "What they want us to do is give them a blank check."

"They're going to get the money they need," Scofield concluded.

And, in the end, they did.

GovNet Not Gone or Forgotten

Seems like homeland security efforts are pushing other initiatives out of the spotlight. Take, for instance, GovNet — the proposed secure intranet for critical government applications.

Don't worry. GovNet plans are still proceeding, according to Howard Schmidt, vice chairman of the federal Critical Infrastructure Protection Board, but right now the board is focusing much of its attention on completing the national strategy on cybersecurity, due in September. This plan will provide details on the cybersecurity issue as highlighted in the homeland security national strategy, which was released July 16.

Board members are also meeting with Steve Cooper, chief information officer at the Office of Homeland Security, to see if GovNet could be used by the proposed Homeland Security Department.

The Incredible Journey

Forget about a road map. It may take the Global Positioning System to figure out what Congress is doing to create a new Homeland Security Department.

House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas), who is chairman of the Select Committee on Homeland Security, is planning to make major changes to what 10 House committees have already done.

Armey's version of the plan would place the Coast Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Secret Service in the new department. These agencies were left out of the plans of one or more of the House committees. Among other things, Armey's bill would ban any effort by the federal government to nationalize driver's licenses or other identification cards and ensure that the new department cannot promote programs involving Americans spying on one another.

Meanwhile, Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee and widely expected to run for president in 2004, has his own version of the bill. He said his legislation will make the homeland security agency "an aggressive consumer of intelligence and law enforcement information...one board on which all the dots related to a potential terrorist attack will be so that we can have a chance to see it before it happens and prevent it before it happens."

All we can say is that it's not over till it's over.

Slow Going for Trilogy

Even as the Bush administration scrambled to improve the country's defenses against terrorism late last year, OMB shot down an attempt to speed progress on the FBI's Trilogy project to upgrade desktop computers and networks, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) said.

He said he got as far as meeting with White House officials on a plan to waive federal procurement laws so the FBI could cut months or even a year off its three-year effort to buy and install new computers, networks and automated analysis capabilities.

Ultimately, "I was stopped by OMB," Durbin said during a July 16 hearing on the Trilogy project. But time has passed, and Durbin said he is ready to try again.

Massaro Moves On

Linda Massaro, director of the Office of Information and Resource Management and CIO at the National Science Foundation, has left the agency for a two-year detail to the IRM College at the National Defense University.

Massaro joined NSF in 1996 after several years at the State and Agriculture departments. She started her federal service with more than a decade of experience at the Navy and Marine Corps.

Nathaniel Pitts, previously director of NSF's Office of Integrative Activities, took over Massaro's duties in an acting capacity beginning July 15.

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