Congress keeps DOD tech spending flat

Concerned about the Pentagon's oversight of technology spending, the House and Senate agreed last week to cut $200 million from the Defense Department's proposed budget for information technology in fiscal 2004.

The bill would also prohibit DOD from rolling out the Bush administration's controversial competitive sourcing provisions — which White House officials have threatened would draw a veto when included in other spending bills.

The roughly $27.7 billion that DOD will receive this year for IT equals the amount appropriated for fiscal 2003.

In February, DOD officials requested an IT budget of about $27.9 billion. Lawmakers initially balked at the figure, saying the department had little control over its IT funds, and recommended deep cuts.

But the cut was not as harsh as it could have been. The House sought a $321 million reduction in July, saying the department had little accountability for how it spent information technology dollars.

The $200 million reduction covered operations and maintenance of IT accounts across DOD. The cuts include:

* Army: $40 million.

* Navy: $60 million.

* Air Force: $60 million.

* Departmentwide: $40 million.

Congress wants DOD and the services to inventory legacy systems before building new ones so they do not duplicate them, said Dan Heinemeier, president of the Government Electronics and IT Association, an industry lobby group based in Arlington, Va.

"We think there was miscommunication, but it causes uncertainty and could lead to program delays," Heinemeier said.

A House and Senate conference committee announced Sept. 18 the $368.2 billion 2004 Defense appropriations bill, a $3.8 billion increase from fiscal 2003. The bill passed the House on Sept. 24 by a vote of 407-15, and the Senate a day later by a vote of 95-0.

The committee appropriated DOD research, development, tests and evaluations $65.2 billion, a $7 billion increase from fiscal 2003. The research and development funding breakdown consisted of:

* Army: $10.3 billion.

* Navy: $15.1 billion.

* Air Force: $20.5 billion.

* Departmentwide: $18.9 billion.

The House and Senate also earmarked $305 million for operational tests and evaluations, which includes joint development among the services.

Key DOD and service IT programs fared well, despite the $200 million cut to their operations and maintenance accounts.

Among those projects:

* DOD's Defense Integrated Military Resource System received $5 million less than requested.

* The controversial Terrorism Information program was cancelled.

* The Army's Future Combat System received the requested $1.7 billion. n

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