Funding bill pumps money into homeland

Homeland security initiatives at the federal, state and local levels will see a significant infusion of money from the $79 billion fiscal 2003 supplemental appropriations bill President Bush signed last week.

Although $62.6 billion is earmarked for the war effort, the rest will go toward increasing security systems at borders, ports and airports, and fighting the threat of bioterrorist attacks at home.

Although there was no immediate breakdown for information technology spending, private industry is expecting a few very good years. The federal government's spending on IT will grow from $45.4 billion to $68.2 billion between 2003 and 2008, according to the Federal IT Market Forecast and Analysis, published annually by market research firm Input.

"You are going to see a lot of it spent reasonably fast," said Larry Allen, executive vice president of the Coalition for Government Procurement. "There are going to be some good opportunities here."

With the war in Iraq winding down, Allen said there will be opportunities in other defense areas that have been on hold because of the buildup before the conflict. Other areas that have been neglected will begin to see more money, too.

"That's good news for everyone else," Allen said.

The supplemental budget provides $2.23 billion for grants to first responders, including $200 million for critical infrastructure grants and $700 million more for critical infrastructure to high-threat, urban areas such as New York City.

"We are happy they are finally getting to fund us," said Ed Rosado, legislative director for the National Association of Counties. "We would have liked to have seen additional assistance."

The funding was a victory for mayors and local officials who spent months telling Congress they needed federal money to fight terrorism.

"In my own hometown of Baltimore, every time we go to Code Orange we have to spend an additional $500,000 a week in overtime costs," said Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.).

Nevertheless, lawmakers in urban areas wanted more. Mikulski, along with New York's two Democratic senators, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles Schumer, unsuccessfully sought an additional $3 billion for first responders.

In a letter to their colleagues urging them to support more money for police and firefighters, they said, "Over the past 18 months, the responsibilities of our nation's local police and fire departments and first responders have skyrocketed. As we send over $9 billion overseas to support our efforts against terrorism and the Iraqi regime, we must assume responsibility for the homeland security needs that accompany our efforts."

"The supplemental definitely has more IT funding," said Olga Grkavac, a vice president of the Information Technology Association of America. "Some is directed toward the first responders, but now everything is being labeled 'first responders' by Congress. More funding is needed, but the supplemental is a good start."

The budget included $235 million to install explosive detection systems for checked baggage at airports, $20 million for port security and $38 million for port vulnerability assessments.

In addition, $162 million was earmarked for bioterrorism, including $16 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for research on severe acute respiratory syndrome, and $100 million to help state and local health authorities cover the cost of the civilian vaccine program.

The Input study predicted that DHS will become a spending powerhouse because it was built from almost two dozen separate agencies. The report said that growth will be the greatest for outsourcing services.

The five agencies that spend the most on IT are the Treasury, Homeland Security, Defense, Energy and Transportation departments. Input predicts that they will account for about 70 percent of the total IT expenditure in 2008.

Michael Hardy contributed to this report.

***

Covering the waterfront

Information technology-related spending in the supplemental appropriations bill includes:

* $150 million to prevent and respond to terrorist acts.

* $35 million for the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection's Container Security Initiative to inspect container cargos before they arrive at U.S. ports, and $90 million for portal radiation detection and monitoring technology.

* $170 million for additional personnel at the nation's borders and to develop an entry/exit system for immigration authorities.

* $20 million to fund the nationwide trucking security and safety initiative.

* $54 million for the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services' Interoperable Communications Technology Program. Funding would improve state and local law enforcement cross-jurisdictional communication and information sharing.

Featured

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.