Senators boost DOD IT spending

While members of the House of Representatives voted to slash $2 billion in information technology funding from the Defense Department's fiscal 2004 budget request last week, the Senate Armed Services Committee did an about-face, authorizing more than $2 billion over the requested levels.

The Senate committee authorized $63.2 billion in funding for research, development, testing and evaluation — a more than $1.3 billion increase over the requested level.

The committee also approved the following funding levels, representing further increases over DOD's requests:

* $10.7 billion for the science and technology program, which is more than $500 million more than the DOD request. The funding includes $147 million for technologies to combat terrorism and defeat emerging so-called asymmetric threats such as the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

* An additional $135 million for the rapid development and acquisition of unmanned vehicles.

* An additional $25 million for procurement of the Movement Tracking System, which helps the logistics community precisely track and communicate with tactical vehicles and is being used throughout southwest Asia.

* An additional $80 million to accelerate the Global Positioning System III next-generation navigational satellite.

In addition, the Senate Armed Services Committee's Readiness and Management Support Subcommittee recommended several legislative provisions designed to streamline DOD's transformation, including:

* Authorize state and local purchases of anti-terrorism technologies and services from federal contracts, and if needed, apply discretionary indemnification authority to those purchases.

* Establish a pilot program to base competitive sourcing decisions for IT services on best-value criteria.

* Give the commander of the Joint Forces Command limited acquisition authority for rapid development and fielding of new command and control capabilities for combatant commanders.

* Extend and expand the authority for use of "other transactions" to acquire research and development from companies that do not traditionally do business with DOD.

The Senate's markup, which was released May 9, is almost a direct contradiction to the House Armed Services Committee's Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee. On the same day, the House panel voted to cut $2 billion in IT funding. The full House committee is debating the DOD authorization bill today.

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