Federal IT spending will rise by more than $4 billion over 2008, but with a lame-duck president in an election year, it’s unlikely that the fiscal 2009 budget will be passed before the new administration takes office next January.
So requests for hefty budget raises from the departments of Veterans Affairs, Defense and the Department of Homeland Security are likely to fall on deaf ears.
“The issue is not going to be whether or not [the budget] passes, it’s going to be whether or not Congress even tries,” said John Slye, principal analyst at Input, a research firm specializing in government procurement.
Slye said that politicians and candidates may use the budget process to try to stonewall the current administration and score points with constituents. While he said that it’s rare to see a budget request that doesn’t increase year over year, the last year of any administration is always difficult, budget-wise.
Presidential hopefuls and a Democratic Congress may try and stall the budget as long as possible so they can try to influence money allocation once they are in office. Stalling the budget process until after the election would allow them greater control over where the money ends up, influencing policy changes and highlighting their priorities.
“No matter who gets elected, a significant change in leadership will force some policy shifts and movement on these fronts,” Slye said.
The 2009 budget request calls for a 6.3 percent increase in total IT spending to $70.9 billion, from $66.4 billion in fiscal 2008, with significant technology initiatives planned within the DOD, VA and the DHS.
In particular, the 2009 budget request provides the DOD with $16.4 billion for command, control, communications, computers and intelligence technologies. Slye said the DOD would use the money to build out its Web-centric warfare initiatives, including tracking and communications satellites, high-speed computer networks and upgrading outdated IT equipment. In a wartime situation, Slye said, “there’s an increased need for networks and communications to give the fighter on the ground as much real-time information as possible.
Office of Management and Budget documents show the VA requested $2.5 billion, an increase of 17 percent over fiscal 2008, to fund continuing improvement of the electronic medical records system used in over 7,000 VA hospitals, to speed medical claims processing and to improve the care of veterans, military retirees and soldiers coming home from combat.
Also according to the OMB, the DHS has requested $100 million for its E-Verify program, which uses an automated system to verify job applicants’ names, dates of birth, social security numbers, and citizenship/immigration status against federal databases to confirm eligibility for employment.
The administration is also requesting $57 million for Immigration and Customs Enforcement automation and IT modernization, including new communications equipment and a biometric detainee location and tracking module.
The US-VISIT (United States Visitor and Immigration Status Indicator Technology) identity management and screening services program requested $4.2 million to expand its biometric identity services.
Currently, all foreign visitors are required to submit two fingerprints and a digital photo, but by the end of 2008, the program will expand to include ten fingerprints from each foreign visitor. An additional $390 million request will be used to integrate the US-VISIT identification system with the FBI’s integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification system.
Data Center Security, Aviation Security and More
The administration also requested $293.5 million for the National Cyber Security Division to further protect Federal networks against cyber threats and intrusions. This includes an additional $39 million in funding for the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team, which analyzes and combats cyber threats and vulnerabilities.
The DHS also requested $23.8 million to consolidate its 17 legacy data centers into two enterprise-wide data centers.
Aviation security and a next-generation, satellite-based air traffic control system is also a priority, with $2.9 billion requested for the Department of Transportation, according to DOT documents.
The administration also requested $131 million for advanced passenger screening and contraband detection sensors at airports, and $33.5 million for surface detection equipment to prevent runway accidents.
An additional $207 million will be spent on hardware and software for interfaces, communications and support infrastructure for next-generation aviation technologies. The DOT also requested $23.2 million for departmental IT infrastructure, including infrastructure for its new headquarters.
Other IT initiatives include a $1.1 billion request for the National Science Foundation to perform supercomputing and network research, and $186 million for procuring supercomputers, data warehouses and networks.
The U.S. Agency for International Development requested $414 million for global IT modernization at 111 sites around the world, a department bandwidth management program, IT infrastructure consolidation and integration of USAID and the State Department’s unclassified networks.