Senate to vote on Stimulus cut for IT

A Senate amendment that would trim the economic stimulus package to $780 billion would also bring spending roughly in line with House levels on major technology items that include broadband investments and electronic medical record coordination.

The amendment also would cut funding under the Senate stimulus bill to zero for an Interior Department government supercomputer account and a Homeland Security Department cybersecurity program. The amendment also would halve the amounts for Justice Department law enforcement wireless communications and the General Services Administration’s fuel-efficient vehicles.

Under the amendment, Commerce Department broadband investment would be cut by $2 billion, bringing the total Senate investment in that technology to $6.7 billion. The House bill has $6 billion for rural and underserved area broadband, to be split between the Commerce and Agriculture departments.

The Senate allocation for the Health and Human Service Department's Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology would fall to $3 billion, from $5 billion. The House has allotted $2 billion for the coordinator to set up a national framework for creating and sharing patient health records electronically.

Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) wrote the amendment that would remove $83 billion in direct appropriations and $25 billion in tax items from the stimulus measure. The larger cuts were for state fiscal stabilization and for school construction.

Nelson has published a statement highlighting funding allocation changes in the amendment, and the Senate Conservatives Fund has posted the 778-page amendment and a chart of the amendment allocations on its Web site. A Senate vote is expected as early as tonight.

“We’ve trimmed the fat, fried the bacon, and milked the sacred cows,” Nelson said in a statement. “What remains will fund education, an energy Smart Grid, tax credits for home buyers and other critical infrastructure.”

The amendment would reduce the Senate allocation for GSA’s “green buildings” to $4.5 billion from $6 billion. The House version has $6 billion. Fuel-efficient vehicles would get only $300 million, which is half of what the Senate had previously allocated. The House bill has $600 million for the vehicles.

In addition, the Agriculture Department's distance learning and telemedicine grants would go to $80 million, down from $180 million. The House stimulus bill had no allocation for that program.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) funding for science and technical research and services would be cut by $118 million, from $218 million. The House version has $100 million in that account.

NIST’s operations, research and facilities account would lose $200 million, bringing it down to $227 million, below the House allocation of $400 million.

The Justice Department's funding for tactical law enforcement wireless communications would be halved to $100 million. The House had no money for that account. Office of Justice Programs block grants for personnel and equipment, including IT, would fall by $450 million, to $1.050 billion.

The Interior Department’s account for governmentwide supercomputers would be zero, down from $100 million. The House bill allocated zero for this account.

The NASA's science account would go to $300 million, down from $500 million. The House bill has $400 million. NASA’s research account would be reduced by $200 million, to $1 billion.

DHS would lose $122 million of its proposed funding for a new Coast Guard icebreaker cutter, bringing the total to $450 million. The House bill had no funding for the icebreaker.

The Transportation Security Administration would receive $1 billion for aviation checkpoint security, down from $1.2 billion, and the DHS headquarters project would get $198 million, down from $248 million. The amendment eliminates entirely a $14 million Senate stimulus allocation for DHS cybersecurity.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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