Tech saturates DHS budget

Homeland Security Department's Fiscal 2006 Budget

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President Bush's proposed fiscal 2006 budget for the Homeland Security Department underlines a heavy reliance on information technology for better border and port security uses, improved screening and credentialing of individuals, chemical and nuclear detection capabilities, secure communications capabilities, and implementation of state-of-the-art financial and human resources information systems internally.

Overall, the proposed DHS budget calls for $41.1 billion in fiscal 2006, a 6.6 percent increase collectively for its agencies from fiscal 2005. The IT portion would rise nearly 25 percent, to $5.96 billion from $4.78 billion in fiscal 2005.

"Indeed, technology holds enormous potential to meet many of our most pressing security needs and we must bring these resources to bear in our fight against terrorism," said Adm. James Loy, the department's acting secretary while the Senate confirms Bush's nominee, Michael Chertoff.

Under the 2006 budget, the Office of the Chief Information Officer would get a $28.43 million increase, from the current $275.27 million to $303.7 million, which includes ongoing maintenance and operations and departmentwide technology projects. Funding increases were listed for activities such as information security compliance of DHS systems, geospatial activities, a metadata solutions center and smart card initiative.

Internally, the department's ongoing implementation of a new human resources system initiative would get $53 million, while the departmentwide financial management system initiative would receive $30 million under the proposed budget.

In a briefing today, DHS officials highlighted some major national programs. Part of their plan includes consolidating several department programs to reduce overhead administrative costs, they said.

For example, the department would consolidate various screening and identification activities to form the Office of Screening Coordination and Operations (SCO) within the Border and Transportation Security Directorate. The new office's programs would include U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT), Secure Flight and Crew Vetter, Free and Secure Trade, Transportation Worker Identification Credential, and Registered Traveler.

"More than $840 million would go toward this endeavor to consolidate and integrate these," Loy said. "Again, I would offer with the lowered administrative overhead one would expect -- and we will make sure it occurs -- a greater mission accomplishment in this SCO."

The department would also establish the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office -- an initiative that will be coordinated with several other federal departments -- to develop, deploy and improve a domestic system to detect and report attempts to import, assemble or transport illicit radiological material. The office and its proposed $227.3 million budget will be part of the Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate.

The S&T Directorate will consolidate its research and development activities under one authority to better leverage funding. The proposed R&D budget is $127.5 million.

Officials also want $600 million for a Targeted Infrastructure Protection program within the Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection (IAIP) Directorate that would provide grants to help state, local and regional governments protect critical infrastructures, such as seaports, mass transit, rail and energy facilities.

Other major IT funding initiatives and activities in the proposed budget include:

$966 total, including an increase of $242 million for Deepwater, the Coast Guard's fleet modernization initiative.

$390 million, an increase of $50 million for US-VISIT. n $174 million to complete the installation of the High Speed Operational Connectivity to passenger and baggage screening checkpoints to improve management of screening system performance.

$73.3 million for cybersecurity initiatives within IAIP, which includes a $5 million increase over this year's level.

$51.1 million for the Border Patrol's America's Shield Initiative, an IT modernization program.

$37 million for the Homeland Secure Data Network for the transfer of secure classified data. The initiative is spread among a number of agencies, including IAIP, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, S&T, and the Secret Service.

$61.1 million for the Homeland Security Operations Center, including a $26.3 million increase. It includes funding increases for the Homeland Security Information Network and to enhance the center's systems and operations.

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