Defense budget sacrifices future IT
Fiscal 2007 funding covers only existing systems and delays modernization
- By Josh Rogin
- Oct 02, 2006
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.