State IT budget sees 5% boost

The State Department's information technology budget would get a 5 percent increase for fiscal 2004 in President Bush's budget plan.

The budget proposal, released today, calls for $939 million for IT that includes money for the continued upgrading of cables, knowledge management, messaging and document archival. Eventually, the fully integrated State Messaging and Archive Retrieval Toolset (SMART) will incorporate these elements. SMART is funded at $10 million in fiscal 2003 and $15 million in fiscal 2004.

Factored into State's IT spending plan is $157 million for classified connectivity and expansion of desktop access to the Internet as well as $114 million in expedited passport fees.

"The State Department is forging ahead to improve information technology management and provide staff the IT backbone needed to successfully carry out the president's foreign policy mission," the budget said, noting that before the department began a comprehensive IT modernization in 1997, many key systems were obsolete. In 2001, most State employees still did not have direct Internet access.

In seeking the increase for State, the Bush administration also made clear that the federal budget contains more money for visa processing, a function that has been shifted from State to the Homeland Security Department.

At the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the agency is moving ahead with increasing its IT planning and project management capacity as well as improving its telecommunication capacity and infrastructure security.

USAID IT investments would be funded at $20 million in fiscal 2004, an increase from $7 million in 2003.

The State Department budget also includes $1.5 billion for embassy security, construction and maintenance, an increase of $208 million over fiscal 2003. The budget request for fiscal 2004 includes money for the construction of secure embassies in eight countries.

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