Congress cuts DHS tech request

Congress cut technology spending at the Homeland Security Department in fiscal 2004 by an average of about 30 percent from the president's original request, according to an analysis by the technology think tank, INPUT.

President Bush signed the DHS appropriations bill into law in October, funding the department at $29.4 billion — a $1 billion increase over the president's original request.

But INPUT officials said an analysis showed that most of the additional funding would likely be used for salaries for first responders and for passenger, baggage and cargo screeners, and not for technology, according to Lauren Jones Shu, a senior analyst at INPUT.

"Congress decreased funding from the president's request for many of the major technology projects that have the most immediate impact on fighting terrorism, primarily because of concerns about the slow progress to date on several of these projects," Shu said.

The DHS budget for technology is roughly $3 billion — about 10 percent of the total budget. But the spending actually remains flat compared with the fiscal 2003 budget, she said.

Two of the hardest hit programs were the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT), a program to track the entry and exit of every foreign visitor, and Customs and Border Enforcement's modernization project, known as the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE).

US-VISIT appropriations were reduced to $330 million for fiscal 2004, about 25 percent less than the White House wanted, and ACE received $41 million, a 29 percent decrease from the original request.

"These reductions in funding will more likely result in scaled down projects rather than speeding DHS implementations along," she said.

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