Defense IT Projects May Be Stalled in 2002

Political maneuvering over the Defense Department budget for fiscal 2002 is likely to result in delays of new information technology projects, a senior Pentagon official said Aug. 29.

Margaret Myers, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense and deputy chief information officer, told executives at a Federal Sources Inc. breakfast briefing that Pentagon budget experts believe it is highly likely Congress will not approve the fiscal 2002 budget by Oct. 1, the start of the new fiscal year.

Instead, the House and Senate are likely to pass continuing resolutions extending spending at fiscal 2001 levels on a short-term basis, while a budget resolution is hammered out.

"This will put a real crimp on new projects," because starting dates would be pushed back until the budget is approved, Myers said.

Defense Department budget experts cannot tell how many continuing resolutions may be needed and how long the delays will be, before the budget is approved, she said.

The change in administration is rippling through the budget process in many ways. Myers said defense officials have been told that in the future, they should not expect supplemental appropriations to augment their budgets. Instead, the department is expected to move to sound budgeting practices that provide a one-time set of numbers.

Programs to restructure the defense work force will continue. Myers said the department will be looking for a 15 percent reduction in headquarters staff.

"The idea is to cut the management fluff ... so you can put more money in [at troop levels]," she said.

Defense spending on IT programs is expected to increase 2.7 percent, to $22.9 billion in fiscal 2002. By comparison, fiscal 2001 spending grew less than 0.5 percent over the previous year, to $22.3 billion.

Ray Bjorklund, vice president of consulting services for FSI, said after the presentation that IT spending for the national missile defense program is included in the $22.9 billion.

Myers said $7.2 billion of the fiscal 2002 IT budget will be spent on national security systems, and another $1.7 billion on information assurance.

The Defense Department "is now properly highlighting and categorizing major systems [such as intelligence and command and control] as national security systems," Bjorklund said. "They are putting this kind of label on it to ensure they get the proper attention and oversight."

The IT budget does not represent the entire IT pie for the Defense Department, Myers said. Expenditures for IT projects by the intelligence community are not included because those figures are classified, but they represent several billion dollars more, she said.

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