E-gov fund takes budget hit

After months of political ping-pong, congressional negotiators have reached an agreement on a $397.4 billion budget bill for fiscal 2003, including $5 million for an e-government fund.

The money falls far short of the $45 million requested, and Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Governmental Affairs Committee, has pledged to keep fighting for more money for e-government projects in the fiscal 2004 budget.

"If we are to achieve the goal of a 21st-century government that is well-run, results-oriented and citizen-centered, we need more funds," said David Marin, Davis' spokesman. "Without more money, the government won't benefit from collaborative technology projects that can make complex operations more efficient and effective, and can enhance our homeland security."

The House and Senate approved the final spending bill late on Feb. 13 and sent it to the president for his signature.

In a statement, President Bush said the budget would provide "valuable resources for priorities such as homeland security, military operations and education while adhering to the spending restraint set forth in my budget."

In other budget action, negotiators agreed to block funding for a Pentagon program that would use data mining to gather information about Americans from commercial databases containing health, financial and travel information.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and other lawmakers had worked to prevent the administration from going forward with its Total Information Awareness project to monitor Americans in the quest to find terrorists on U.S. soil.

"The fundamental objective was to protect law-abiding Americans on American soil...from the government doing a fishing expedition on their personal lives," Wyden said.

The fiscal 2003 budget also includes:

* $6.2 billion for immigration enforcement that fully funds an entry/exit program to track the arrival and departure of noncitizens.

* $574 million for weather satellite systems.

* $1.3 billion to continue worldwide security improvements at embassies around the world.

* $5.2 billion for the Transportation Security Administration for civil aviation security.

* $435 million for Customs Service modernization.

* $4 billion for National Science Foundation research.

* $50 million for NASA to investigate the shuttle disaster.

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