Treasury spends big on IT

Paper transactions are so last year, according to the Treasury Department's fiscal 2006 budget proposal.

The department's $11.6 billion discretionary spending budget request for fiscal 2006 dedicates about 20 percent to information technology. Treasury's proposed $2.3 billion IT budget amounts to $82 million more than Congress enacted for fiscal 2005.

The goal is to move toward an all-electronic Treasury, according to fiscal 2006 budget documents.

Among the Treasury bureaus slated to receive more funding is the Financial Management Service (FMS), which administers the federal government's payment and collection systems. Treasury officials propose a 6.3 percent increase to $404 million for FMS in fiscal 2006, up from the $380 million Congress enacted for fiscal 2005.

Through efforts such as pay.gov, service officials annually issue more than 940 million payments worth $1.5 trillion from civilian agencies. During 2004, 705 million of those payments were transmitted electronically and 235 were printed paper checks. For every payment converted from paper to an electronic transfer, the government saves 62 cents, according to President Bush's budget proposal.

In addition, the Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) bureau would get more money, up to $75.1 million from $73.5 million, a 2.3 percent increase. FinCEN officials hunt down sources of terrorist funding, money laundering and other financial crimes and is the U.S. participant in the Egmont Group, an international coalition of national and regional financial intelligence units.

Bureau officials plan to spend part of their money on a data integration support structure, expanding the bureau's international information exchange efforts and encouraging domestic businesses that file reports with the network to do so electronically. Of the 1,500 top filers who collectively account for 91 percent of the organizations that must send information to the network according to a mandate of the Bank Secrecy Act, only 161 submit their reports online. Program officials want to 90 percent of the top filers to submit their reports electronically during the next two to five years.

While encouraging online filing, FinCEN officials also want to enhance the bureau's text retrieval capability. "Our current technology performs the proverbial haystack search for a person or word already known to be of interest," states a public Treasury budget briefing book. Officials want to implement new technology that garners from unstructured data, such as narrative text in which data items cannot be entered into predefined fields, previously undetected patterns and associations among named entities and even subject topics. FinCEN officials say they plan to share their text-mining tools with other federal, state and local governments.

The Bureau of Public Debt is likewise slated for an increase in fiscal 2006, though a smaller one: up 1.6 percent to $188 million, a rate increase less than inflation. The bureau sells Treasury securities and has an effort under way to enable investors to purchase and manage their Treasury securities holdings through an online account. Program officials of the project, Treasury Direct, request that $1.2 million in Treasury funds be reprogrammed in fiscal 2006 to accelerate the bureau's conversion of paper savings bonds to electronic holdings via the Treasury Direct Web site, continue application development and enhance customer services.

Within the Treasury office of the chief information officer, funding for e-government and lines of business initiatives is set to go up 0.8 percent, for a total of 2.8 million. Departmental spending on enterprise architecture is also set to increase by 0.8 percent, to $400,000.

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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