DOD dollars drive transformation

Although the Defense Department still will not reach its goal of spending 3 percent of its total budget on science and technology in the fiscal 2004 budget, the portion allocated to information technology will continue to grow over the next several years.

President Bush will present a defense budgets of nearly $380 billion to Congress Feb. 3, and most of the money proposed for technology is intended to drive transformation, the military's movement to recreate itself as a more integrated, connected force, said Dov Zakheim, DOD's comptroller.

"We will have an increase in IT spending. It's not insignificant, but it will not be like it was last year," Zakheim told Federal Computer Week. Last year, the Bush administration sought $379.3 billion overall for DOD — about a 13 percent increase over fiscal 2002.

Zakheim said the two areas on which DOD's IT budget focuses heavily are science and technology and transformation.

DOD has had a goal of reaching the industry's standard 3 percent spending on science and technology, but has not yet met it. Zakheim said this year's budget will see a "slight increase" over last year's in that area, but added it will still fall short of its goal.

Transformation, however, will see a large chunk of the 2004 budget, reaping about $24 billion. "Transformation takes the programs and puts them into context," Zakheim said. "Even before the Afghanistan war, we were building the criteria to have successful operations in the theater, such as linking the guy on the horse to the guy in the cockpit to space to a [unmanned aerial vehicle]."

While bandwidth remains the largest barrier to the warfighter, its wider adoption and deployment to the field "isn't a dollars issue so much as it is a cultural issue."

The unmanned vehicles programs also will see a significant boost over the '03 budget, but Zakheim would not provide specific numbers. He did say, however, that six different unmanned vehicle programs will see funding in the budget, including the well-known Predator and Global Hawk, and the lesser-known unmanned underwater vehicle, a maritime patrol vehicle and the Army's Shadow tactical unmanned aerial vehicle.

The Littoral Combat Ship, a concept that puts smaller ships near the shoreline, will see its first funding in DOD's budget in fiscal 2004. The Navy has awarded six $500,000 contracts to companies to develop designs for the ship, but it remains a drawing board concept. The Navy is hoping to have the first of the littoral, or near-shoreline, ships in the water by the end of 2005.

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