House, Senate continue DOD IT division

Department of Defense Authorization ? House Armed Services Committee report

The Senate and the House of Representatives passed their versions of the 2004 National Defense Authorization Act on May 22, continuing in their opposite paths for information technology spending.

Overall, the House and Senate legislation authorizes more than $400 billion in budget authority for the Defense Department and for the national security programs in the Energy Department.

However, the House version cuts IT spending by $1.7 billion, while the Senate proposes an increase of that amount.

The two bodies will now send their respective legislation to committee to negotiate a common bill. Appropriation of funds will follow that process.

"With this legislation we continue our commitment to defend our homeland and take care of our military personnel," said Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. "The legislation provides for today's defense needs while addressing tomorrow's threats and this strong bipartisan vote validates our belief in this approach."

The House's reduction in IT spending was "strongly opposed" by the Bush administration, according to a statement released by the Office of Management and Budget.

"At a time when IT investment is becoming even more crucial to success on the battlefield and in business, the [House Armed Services] committee has proposed cutting the department's IT budget by over 7 percent, reducing the allocation below [fiscal] 2003 levels," the official Statement of Administration Policy, released by the Office of Management and Budget, read. "While the administration is committed to improving governmentwide IT management, these reductions to the IT budget request would seriously impair the department's ability to continue the global war on terrorism and defense transformation."

The administration also expressed concerns that increased acquisition authorizations for "legacy force programs," such as upgrades to the Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles, "would divert resources away from higher transformational military priorities."

The amended budget request for fiscal 2004 contained $72.6 billion for procurement. This represents a $1.3 billion decrease from the amount authorized for fiscal 2003.

The House bill also includes the Services Acquisition Reform Act, a set of measures designed to simplify the procurement of services. Rep. Tom Davis, (R.-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, was unable to pass a similar bill last year.

"[SARA] consists of a carefully crafted set of inter-related legislative proposals that will address the multiple deficiencies plaguing government acquisition today," he said.

Davis cited:

* The lack of up-to-date, comprehensive training for acquisition professionals.

* The inability of current government structure to reflect business-like practices by integrating the acquisition function into overall agency missions and facilitating cross-agency acquisitions and information sharing.

* The lack of good tools and incentives to encourage the participation of the best commercial firms in the government market.

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