Funding tight for US-VISIT

Homeland Security Department officials may be tight on money this fiscal year for the ambitious entry/exit system, but they expect the budget for fiscal 2005 to be higher.

Although the Bush administration originally requested $444 million for the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) program in fiscal 2004, DHS ultimately received $330 million. That includes funding for items such as a program management office, management support, and operations and maintenance, which makes budgeting tight this year, US-VISIT director Jim Williams said.

"Those things have to come off the top of the $330 million, which concerns us [that] there's not a lot of money for this fiscal year," Williams said today, speaking at a Federal Sources Inc. breakfast.

Next fiscal year may be another story. Although he could not discuss the amounts requested, Williams said he was confident US-VISIT would get more funding in fiscal 2005.

US-VISIT officials continue to build the program management office, for which DHS Secretary Tom Ridge has approved 115 positions. Williams has said the office has about 50 people detailed so far. One position they are looking to fill is that of the chief strategist, he said.

With an expected release next month of a request for proposals for US-VISIT's prime integrator, officials are looking to industry for a strong business process vision, Williams said. The prime integrator should be able to present alternatives on meeting the goals for border management with an "actionable solution" they can use immediately after the contract is awarded in the spring, he said.

"We are trying to ambitiously accomplish all of that through this acquisition," Williams said.

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