GovNet, smarter borders, wireless access get funds in Bush budget

Information technology plays prominently in President Bush's $37.7 billion budget proposal for homeland security in fiscal 2003.

Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge announced Feb. 4 that "using 21st century technology to secure the homeland" would be one of four main initiatives in the new budget. The Bush administration is requesting $722 million for this initiative, aimed at using technology to prevent terrorist attacks, Ridge said.

"The role of information technology is considerable," he said.

The other three initiatives also will generate spending on IT products and services. These initiatives are supporting police, firefighters and emergency medical personnel who would be the first on the scene of a terrorist attack; defending against bioterrorism; and beefing up security at U.S. borders and ports.

The $722 million includes $380 million for the Immigration and Naturalization Service to put in place a new entry-exit system to track the arrival and departure of non-U.S. citizens.

"Once they enter here, we don't monitor when they exit," Ridge said.

Another $5 million is earmarked for a feasibility study of GovNet, a proposal to build a government-only network to protect critical government functions from cyberattacks.

Ridge also said there is a need for a priority wireless access program. Police and rescue workers were unable to complete calls during the Sept. 11 crisis because wireless communication systems were jammed with traffic. The budget proposal includes $60 million to develop a program where police and rescue workers would get priority cellular phone coverage during emergencies.

The Bush budget also adds $50 million to the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center, bringing the center's funding in fiscal 2003 to $125 million.

Another $30 million is being requested to create a Cyberspace Warning Intelligence Network that would like the major players in government and the private sector to manage future cyberattacks.

Information sharing is critical to the long-term fight against terrorism, Ridge said. In the aftermath of Sept. 11, many agencies are sharing data in ways they didn't before, he said, "but we really need to make that a permanent part of our information infrastructure."

About the Author

Nick Wakeman is the editor-in-chief of Washington Technology. Follow him on Twitter: @nick_wakeman.

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