The Buzz - 30

Going digital Immigration's paper parade

Think immigration is a hot topic? Try automating all those paper files that the Department of Homeland Securitys U.S. Citizenship and Immigra-tion Services unit has to track. In total, the USCIS has to rely on about 55 million paper-based files to adjudicate applications for immigration status.

Automating all those files is no small matter, says the Government Accountability Office. In a report released May 1, the GAO outlined the challenges the USCIS is going to face automating its alien files, also known as A-Files. In a project called the Integrated Digitization Document Management Program, the USCIS plans to spend about $190 million over eight years to electronically scan files and store and share them.

Although its too early to truly gauge the USCIS planning efforts, the GAO said the USCIS hasnt yet determined the "scope, content and approach for moving from paper-based to paperless A-Files."

Bottom line: The effort to go digital with all those immigration papers may fall short because effective planning isnt happening. The GAO said the USCIS doesnt know which A-Files forms it will scan and hasnt figured out a plan to manage or evaluate its digitization project, even though it has already awarded $20 million for a pilot.

Financials

As Microsoft turns Microsoft shares have been in the tank ever since the company surprised Wall Street by saying it was going to increase operating expenses by about $2.3 billion. Even for a company as loaded as Microsoft, thats a chunk of change.

The big question: Where is that dough going? Heres an analysis by Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Charles DiBona in New York:

• $700 million—the amount DiBona estimates will be devoted to Xbox. These expenses, which wont be ongoing, are designed to ship more consoles and push suppliers beyond efficient manufacturing levels. The goal: Take advantage of delays in Sonys next-generation PlayStation.

• $100 million—the sum that will go to lend marketing support to Chinese PC manufacturers so they will sell computers with legitimate copies of Windows. "Such marketing support to vendors in less-developed nations is likely to be a recurring cost of the business," said DiBona.

• $1.5 billion—the price of admission to better compete with Google. This spending to boost Internet advertising and services "is likely to persist indefinitely," said DiBona. "Concern has grown that the company appears to be flailing at its opponents. In the absence of greater insight into the spending, its necessity and its potential returns, the concern is that the spending is a waste."

Federal Spending

DOE, Air Force give out most money

The U.S. government awarded $11 billion in IT contracts in the second quarter of fiscal 2006, according to Reston, Va., research company Input.

The Department of Energy and the Air Force drove the bulk of the spending. The DOE awarded $2.5 billion to National Security Technologies to manage and operate the departments Nevada test site, related facilities and labs. The Air Force awarded a contract to build a satellite mission operations system to Lockheed Martin with a ceiling value of $2 billion over 10 years.

More than half the dollars spent by the feds were for professional services and support and maintenance. Why? It costs a lot of money to keep old systems running. "Older hardware and software [have] to be maintained, which is extremely costly, but agencies are continuing to look at new options in replacing these legacy systems," said Marcus Fedeli, Inputs manager of federal opportunity products.

—Compiled by Larry Dignan

By the Numbers

$5,577.70

IT infrastructure cost per full-time employee at banking giant UBS in the first quarter

Source: SEC filing (Since UBS reports its results in Swiss francs, the cost was calculated based on an exchange rate of $1 equaling 1.22613 Swiss francs.)