Defense budget sacrifices future IT

Fiscal 2007 funding covers only existing systems and delays modernization

Conference Report on 2007 DOD Appropriations Bill

Next year’s Defense Department budget will cut funding for several information technology and modernization programs and shift that money to support the systems already in use. The cuts will inevitably delay the development of new technologies and business processes, military officials say.

In Congress’ last week in session, the House and Senate passed a final version of the fiscal 2007 Defense Appropriations bill, totaling $436.5 billion, according to the conference report.

The bill, which sets spending limits for the military, includes a $70 billion bridge fund for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Despite the large size of the overall budget, technology programs received less money than the Bush administration requested, said Kevin Carroll, who leads the Army’s Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems (PEO-EIS). The effect will be significant delays in delivering integrated technology and business systems, he said.

Future IT systems are becoming less of a priority, Carroll said. With less money, DOD will take longer to deliver new functions, and existing systems will remain in use longer, he added.

PEO-EIS’ Single Army Logistics Enterprise (SALE) lost $20 million from its request of $121.8 million. Congress also cut the Army’s Installation Information Infrastructure Modernization Program’s budget by $32 million from its request of $279 million.

The Defense Business Transformation Agency, which leads DOD’s business modernization effort, saw its budget cut from the $179.3 million request to $150.9 million, despite the agency’s expanded responsibilities.

Some programs, such as SALE, saw increases in the bridge fund portion of the legislation, called Title IX. But those funds are for the war on terrorism, and the department will use them to maintain existing technologies, Carroll said.

The Single-Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System, the Army’s standard VHF-FM radio, received $189 million, of which $124.5 million is in the bridge fund. The Government Accountability Office recently found that DOD spent $1.3 billion in 2005 and 2006 on those radios, which convoys use in Iraq operations.

On the other hand, Congress eliminated procurement funding for the Joint Tactical Radio System, DOD’s multibillion-dollar effort to replace existing radios.

Experts say lawmakers misused the Title IX bridge fund by filling it with items previously funded in the base budget so they could use the base budget for personal pork projects.

“They’re pretending that they’re cutting the basic bill, but they are just moving the money,” said Winslow Wheeler, director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information. The effect is that military activities go unfunded, and warfighters suffer, he added.

Bob Brewin contributed to this article.

Army has its hat in hand

Equipment shortfalls and unprecedented low levels of readiness have pushed the tension between current and future military priorities to new levels.

Last week, it was reported that Army Chief of Staff Gen. Pete Schoomaker, left, intentionally neglected to submit a fiscal 2008 Army budget plan to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld after telling administration officials that the Army would need billions more to meet its obligations and maintain readiness.

“There’s no sense in us submitting a budget that we can’t execute — a broken budget,” Schoomaker recently told a Washington, D.C., audience.

The House Armed Services Committee agreed to add $20 billion to the Defense Authorization Act, but Schoomaker wants about $140 billion in 2008, which is $25 billion more than the Pentagon had planned, according to reports.

Schoomaker is unwilling to sacrifice money from the Army’s big pet projects, such as the Future Combat Systems, said Winslow Wheeler, director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information. Congress could help by performing needed oversight of those programs, he added.

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