President's 2006 IT Budget Goes Heavy On Homeland Security Spending
With the first budget plan of his second term, President Bush is proposing to spend $65.2 billion on IT in fiscal 2006 to further the fight against terrorism, ensure homeland security, and automate health-care services. The proposal issued earlier this week marks a 9% increase over the $58.9 billion in IT funding the administration requested a year ago and about a 7% increase over the $60.9 billion allocated for IT in fiscal 2005, which ends Sept. 30.



 By Larry Greenemeier Courtesy of InformationWeek

"The proposed IT budget for fiscal 2006 shows a very, very strong emphasis on national security, information sharing, and cybersecurity," says Ray Bjorklund, senior VP and chief knowledge officer for Federal Sources, a government-IT research firm.

The proposed increase in IT spending would support efforts by the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Justice to bolster security at home, as well as a $311 million modernization of the Veterans Affairs health information system and technology architecture program, said Karen Evans, the White House Office of Management and Budget's administrator for E-government and IT, during a Tuesday conference call.

Under the proposed budget, the Defense Department would receive 46% of allocated IT dollars, Homeland Security would get 19%, and the remaining federal agencies would split 35%. This is consistent with the allocation of funds in fiscal 2005.

Homeland Security's proposed $5.96 billion IT budget for fiscal 2006 would cover both IT operations and all IT aspects of homeland security programs. It's up nearly 25% from $4.78 billion a year ago and features a number of new projects. Bush has proposed $31.6 million in funding for Border & Transportation Security's Consolidated Enforcement Environment, a system designed to support the agency's intelligence, interdiction, law-enforcement, and investigative efforts. Another $38 million is proposed for a new Homeland Security operations center and $11.6 million for technology to manage cybersecurity.

The budget proposal includes $10 million for the Transportation Security Administration's new Freight Assessment Program, which is expected to help the government analyze data on shippers and air carriers. TSA also is expected to receive $382.5 million for electronic baggage screening technology and $215.7 million for transportation worker credentialing projects.

Justice Department IT allocations would increase to $2.70 billion, up from $2.25 billion in fiscal 2005. The budget includes more than a 20% increase in Justice's spending on IT security, up to $254.6 million. Nearly $1.7 billion in IT-security spending is proposed in fiscal 2006 across the federal government.

The Office of Management and Budget plans in March to launch cybersecurity as a line of business within the President's Management Agenda. The line-of-business strategy is to apply business principles to different areas of government, such as financials, human resources, grants, health, and case management, common to most agencies. OMB is assembling an interagency task force to evaluate common cybersecurity technologies and processes that can be consolidated across the federal government, Evans said Tuesday. "As much as $2 billion is spent annually by agencies replicating and duplicating the same security measures," she said.

Given the president's campaign to promote his plans for Social Security reform, one area of the IT budget that's likely to cause some head scratching is the proposed reduction in the Social Security Administration's IT budget, down 7% to $958 million, Federal Sources' Bjorklund says. One reason for this could be the lag between now and the time Bush's ideas are translated into action, he says, adding, "What we're seeing is marking time while the legislation is developed." Once a new paradigm for Social Security begins to take effect, perhaps in 2007, he says, there will be an increase in IT allocated for the Social Security Administration.