Congress May Rework, Possibly Increase Bush's IT Budget

Congress May Rework, Possibly Increase Bush's IT Budget

With President Bush proposing only a 1 percent increase in spending on information technology in his 2002 budget, industry observers expect lawmakers to make many changes ? and possibly bolster IT spending ? during this year's budget process.

"The president's budget proposal is understated," said Albert Nekimken, vice president of research for Input Inc., a market research firm in Chantilly, Va. "I think spending will go up for IT."

Lawmakers may seek to reverse planned decreases in IT spending for the Justice Department, the military services, NASA and other agencies.

"The main thing to stress is that [the president's budget] is a preliminary proposal and may look quite different after the legislative process," Nekimken said.

In his proposed budget delivered to Congress last month, President Bush recommended spending $44.9 billion on IT in fiscal 2002, only a $429 million increase over IT spending in 2001.

The new budget must be approved by Congress and signed into law by the president. Fiscal 2002 begins this October.

Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America, said the president's proposal, while containing some important provisions for the IT community, raises questions about the future of certain programs. ITAA, based in Arlington, Va., represents more than 500 high-tech companies, including many systems integrators that do business with government.















Government IT Spending Stays Flat
Planned federal spending on IT products and services in 2002 shows little growth over 2001.
YearIT Budget
(In $billions)
Annual Growth
2000$41.3 
2001$44.47.5 %
2002$44.80.9 %
Source: Input


"Some of the key technology modernization programs undertaken by the federal government are significantly underfunded in the Bush budget," he said in an April 18 statement.

One of those programs, said Miller, is the U.S. Customs Service Automated Commercial Environment program. IBM Corp. of Armonk, N.Y., was awarded a $1.3 billion contract for the program April 27. The Internal Revenue Service modernization also is significantly short of required funds, he said.

ITAA will lobby Congress to provide necessary funding for these programs, Miller said.

Another area likely to get a lot of attention is proposed spending on IT for the Education Department, which received only a 1.5 percent increase from $643 million to $653 million in the president's budget. Nekimken noted that IT support for processing of student financial aid data was cut.

The president's budget, however, provides funding for some specific programs aimed at improving IT education. For example, Miller said the budget contains $200 million to develop the President's Math and Science Partnership initiative to create working partnerships between K-12 schools and institutions of higher learning to encourage math and science education.

It also proposes a significant increase in student loan forgiveness for math and science graduates who teach in "high needs" schools for five years from $5,000 to $17,500 per teacher.

"With the critical shortage of much-needed skilled technology workers, this emphasis on math and science education cannot be underestimated," Miller said.

The State Department received one of the largest boosts in IT funding, a 9 percent increase from $582 million to $634 million. The "long overdue" increases will provide high-profile, critical upgrades in the security and network systems for diplomatic posts around the world, Nekimken said.

The Agriculture Department's IT budget received a 7.5 percent increase from $1.384 billion to $1.488 billion. Nevertheless, the proposed budget is likely to be scrutinized because it cuts funding for natural resource management as well as for modernization and ongoing operations, Nekimken said.

NASA's IT budget, which drops 6 percent from $2.23 billion to $2.096 billion, could also draw attention.

The high-tech industry supports proposed budget increases to fight cybercrime, Miller said. The FBI, for example, received an 8 percent increase to provide for additional technical personnel and development of new technology in this area. And the General Services Administration received a large increase to combat attacks on government systems.

Miller also lauded the proposal's inclusion of a permanent extension of a research and development tax credit, but he said the president needs to take a closer look at the government's overall R&D spending. While the budget proposes medical research funding at significant increases, some of the key nonmedical technology research programs have been frozen or cut, he noted.

"ITAA will work with the administration and Congress to make a case for restoring and increasing federal dollars spent in this area," Miller said.

Some key lawmakers are still reviewing the budget proposal, such as Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., who chairs the Senate Commerce subcommittee on communications and is a member of the Senate Republican High Tech Task Force.

Burns said the administration is taking too long to appoint people to senior information technology posts at the Commerce Department, which could hamper lawmakers as they try to assess the president's proposals.

Officials who are "in the know" need to be in place soon to iron out budget specifics and controversial IT issues like deployment of broadband services and improved communications within the United States and abroad, he said.

Industry representatives expect lively debate as industry, Congress and the administration battle to shape the federal IT budget.

"The government budget process is a lengthy, at times heated, one that will require all sides to make their case," Miller said.

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