House passes DOD IT cuts

Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2004

The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a Defense Department spending bill on July 8 that would significantly cut the agency's information technology spending.

The House approved reductions in IT spending in the amount of $320 million for all four services. The reductions are as follows:

* Army: $60 million

* Navy: $100 million

* Air Force: $100 million

* Defense-wide: $60 million

The overall $369 billion Defense bill puts a heavier emphasis on joint warfighting, faster mobilization and transformation, but significantly reduces IT spending.

In a statement of administration policy, the White House expressed its concern over the cuts, calling them imprudent.

"Reductions of $300 million in information technology spending do not seem prudent at a time when such investment is becoming critical to battlefield success," the statement read.

The bill also calls for the transfer of some $3 billion from operations and maintenance to research, development, test and evaluation. This is a provision that has also raised the ire of the White House. At the same time, however, the bill calls for a $300 million reduction in IT spending from the president's request.

Among the technology-related expenses for research, development, test and evaluation were:

* Army: $9.3 billion

* Navy: $14.3 billion

* Air Force: $20.5 billion

* For Defense-wide activities: $18.4 billion

The administration expressed concern that some funds directed for research, development, test and evaluation would come at the expense of other programs the president considers more important.

"The House bill includes an increase of $800 million for procurement, and $2.7 billion for research, development, test and evaluation for a number of unrequested programs," the administration statement read. "These increases come at the expense of more important transformational programs included in the president's budget."

For example, the bill provides $300 million for upgrades to the Bradley Fighting Vehicle and Abrams Main Battle Tank, which the administration had terminated to fund programs related to the Army's Objective Force.

The bill also included $1.7 billion for the Army's Future Combat System and $10.8 billion for the Defense Science and Technology Program.

The bill made several references to the "Buy American Act," encouraging DOD to purchase goods that are designed and made in America. The provisions have caused consternation with some industry groups and even members of Congress, who feel they would have unintended consequences.

"So-called 'Buy American' provisions included in the House version of the Defense Authorization bill would have far-reaching negative consequences for IT producers and the US government customer," said Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America, an Arlington, Va.-based industry group.

"Our military deserves to have the highest quality tools to fight wars and terrorism, and they deserve to have them in their hands expeditiously — not waiting for contractors and government to jump through outdated compliance hoops at the cost of months, even years, and billions of dollars," Miller said.

The Senate was debating its version of the appropriations bill on July 9.


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