Budget calls for Student Aid upgrade

For the Education Department, the president's fiscal 2006 budget asks for a 2.8 percent spending increase to continue modernizing computer systems that support the department's Federal Student Aid programs. Otherwise, the IT budget request is essentially flat.

William Leidinger, assistant secretary for management and chief information officer at Education, said the president's $391 million IT budget request is sufficient for FSA modernization to continue and for other projects, such as moving into a new data center this summer and upgrading network capacity and information systems security.

"Our non-FSA budget is basically at the same level that it's at this year, but the '05 level is higher than what it has been in recent years," Leidinger said. Last year, the total IT budget for the Education was $364 million.

The Education budget that the president submitted to Congress Feb. 7 calls for spending $5.3 million on enterprise architecture initiatives. Such initiatives are focused on aligning IT spending with business needs of the department and spending IT dollars more efficiently.

In addition, the budget request includes $3 million for various e-government and a business consolidation initiatives of the Office of Management and Budget, including $800,000 for grants.gov.

For information systems security and documentation required under the Federal Information Security and Management Act of 2002, the budget earmarks $100,000.

Other highlights of the president's budget request include:

$66.9 million for telecommunications intrastructure and office automation upgrades, to include videoconferencing capabilities

$59.6 million for a Virtual Data Center to support Federal Student Aid application processing

$27.5 million for a Central Processing System application for processing student requests for financial aid

$16.1 million for Common Services for Borrowers for servicing direct student loans and collecting and managing student loan debts

$8.6 million for the Federal Student Aid financial management system to account for all FSA program transactions

$4.4 million for the department's Web site, www.ed.gov

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