Senate passes DOD spending bill

House of Representatives Defense Appropriations Act, 2004

The Senate last night passed a Defense Department spending bill that more closely follows the Bush administration's technology requests than the House bill.

Earlier this month, the House overwhelmingly passed a DOD appropriations bill that would significantly cut the agency's information technology spending.

The Senate bill had been delayed by a prolonged debate about a myriad of issues, few related to IT.

The fate of a $320 million cut in the Defense Department's IT budget is now in limbo after the two legislative bodies passed divergent spending bills.

"We are concerned about the House appropriations taking some fairly blanket cuts in some pretty important areas, such as force protection and transformation programs," said Kent Schneider, president of Northrop Grumman IT's defense enterprise solutions. "We are very interested to see what comes out of the conference committee and we're hopeful that the Senate can exert some influence and restore some of that funding."

In a statement of administration policy, the Bush administration expressed its concern over the IT cuts proposed by the House.

"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.

Both bodies passed different, but monetarily equivalent, $369 billion Defense bills that place a heavier emphasis on joint warfighting, faster mobilization and transformation.

The Senate recommended IT spending closer to the president's request, which was about $28 billion. The Senate bill also calls for overall increases of $1.7 billion in research, development, test and evaluation.

"I don't think the difference between the House and Senate bills are anything to get uptight about," said Ray Bjorklund, a vice president at Federal Sources Inc., a market research firm in McLean, Va.

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