DHS gets IT money in stimulus

The Homeland Security Department will get a $2.8 billion boost from the new stimulus law, and about half of the money is likely to pay for information technology-related programs.

The largest single IT item is $1 billion for the Transportation Security Administration’s installation of checked baggage explosive detection systems. These are generally systems that use X-rays and digital three-dimensional scanning.

Another $100 million is to go toward one of the department’s most high-profile technology programs — the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s virtual fence surveillance system being built on the border between the United States and Mexico.

Construction of towers for the first permanent segment of the $8 billion southwest border system known as SBInet is expected to begin in late March or early April. The Secure Border Initiative Network system is comprised of cameras, radars, sensors and communications equipment strung on towers that feed data into border patrol operations centers.

Customs and Border Protection also will receive $420 million to help pay for construction and renovation of land border ports of entry. Many of those border entry and exit points are being expanded and reconfigured in part to make room for sophisticated scanners and identification checking equipment.

The law injects $300 million into state and local grant programs for port security, rail security and mass transit security. A large chunk of that grant money is likely to pay for IT-related systems, such as access control, camera monitoring, perimeter alarm systems, underwater surveillance and tunnel surveillance systems.

There also is $200 million for construction and renovation of the department’s headquarters at its new location at the former St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in the District of Columbia. A portion of that is expected to pay for computer systems, telecommunications, Internet connectivity, access control and other IT systems.

Other IT items included in the DHS budget include $210 million for firefighter assistance grants to upgrade fire stations, a portion of which may help pay for network connectivity and emergency communications; $98 million to the Coast Guard for shore facilities and aids to navigation; $60 million for tactical communications for customs and border protection, and $20 million for tactical communications for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

President Barack Obama signed the measure today.

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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