DHS tech request rises 8 percent

Department of Homeland Security

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The Homeland Security Department would see an 8 percent increase in information technology spending under President Bush's proposed fiscal 2005 budget.

It's the first formal budget request for the department since it was formed early last year. The proposed budget is $40.2 billion for next year, a 9.7 percent increase collectively for its agencies from fiscal 2004. The portion targeted for IT would rise to $4.43 billion, up 8 percent from the $4.1 billion requested for fiscal 2004.

A significant amount of the IT dollars would be used to expand existing customs, border, transportation, and traveler security and screening projects and programs. The U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) program, recently launched in 115 airports and 14 seaports across the country, is one program the administration wants to expand to further modernize border management systems and capabilities and integrate databases.

"That program has been very successful processing more than 900,000 legitimate passengers since the beginning of the year, matching 89 potential entrants against criminal watch lists," said DHS Secretary Tom Ridge during a budget briefing this afternoon. "Therefore, it's not surprising that this budget provides a total of $340 million, $12 million more than this year, to continue expanding US-VISIT to include land borders and additional seaports."

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is working on several technology-related initiatives, including a proposed $64 million expansion of a remote video system along the country's southern and northern borders for enhanced detection and monitoring. Another proposed $126 million -- of which $25 million is new -- would help fund Phases I and II and begin Phase III of the Container Security Initiative that seeks to enhance the technological capacity of screeners at foreign ports.

Under the proposed budget, the Transportation Security Administration would continue to fund screening and explosive-detection equipment at all airports to the tune of $681 million, an increase of $50 million over this year, but significantly lower than two years ago.

DHS officials want to beef up aerial surveillance and sensor technology, radiation-detection monitors and biosurveillance. They're also proposing nearly $3.6 billion to support state and local first responders, a $452 million decrease from this year's budget.

Internally, department officials seek funds for various projects to improve administration, including $17 million for its financial management system, for a total of $56 million. The department's human resources information system would receive an increase of $21 million for design, development and implementation. Also, $13 million is slated for the department's enterprise architecture and portal activities.

Overall, homeland security activities across 32 federal agencies would increase to $47.4 billion, a 15 percent increase over this year's level.

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