GEIA: Fed IT spending to jump in 2003

But civilian agencies <@SM>uncertain whether they have role in major initiatives

Federal government spending on information technology will total more than $74 billion in fiscal 2003, according to a forecast by an IT trade association.

The prediction by the Government Electronics and Information Technology Association includes the administration's $52.5 billion budget request for IT projects, as well as $15 billion for IT spending on "information superiority" and approximately $7 billion for research and development projects and other IT spending by quasi-governmental agencies.

Arlington, Va.-based GEIA presented its annual forecast the last week of October. The forecast is based on budget documents and nearly 400 interviews with representatives throughout the government IT community, inside government and the private sector.

The budget for the proposed Department of Homeland Security is an estimated $37.7 billion, but governmentwide spending will be higher due to spending by other departments for things such as physical security and medical research.

The fiscal 2003 forecast is up from GEIA's fiscal 2002 estimate of $70 billion. Getting a large boost are the Defense Department, intelligence community and agencies with homeland security missions.

Information superiority -- making better decisions than one's foes based on the quality, timeliness and coordination of information, as demonstrated in the military's commitment to network-centric warfare -- will provide a new driver for IT spending, according to the GEIA forecast.

But among civilian agencies, there exists widespread nervousness stemming from questions about the shape of the proposed Homeland Security Department and the uncertainty of operating under continuing resolutions. Agencies are concerned with the Office of Management and Budget's requirement that their funding requests be justified with business case analyses, said Mary Freeman, who chaired the GEIA committee helping put together the report. Freeman is director of business development for Verizon Communications Inc., New York.

There are contract opportunities on the way, according to the report.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service has several projects. "Starlight," the recompete of the Service Technology Alliance Resources, or STARS, contract, has a value estimated at $1.2 billion. This project, to provide a wide range of information resource management services and systems, is considered a "go" by GEIA; it has been funded and is expected to be handled through the National Institutes of Health governmentwide acquisition contract, Chief Information Officer Solutions and Partners II. White papers from vendors are being evaluated, with a downselect expected in November.

The Entry Exit System to track foreign nationals entering or leaving the United States is another high-profile project. The INS released a request for information Nov. 5, with responses due Nov. 29. It has an estimated price tag of $380 million.

Steve Cooper, chief information officer for the Office of Homeland Security, told the audience of several hundred business and government representatives that his office is focusing on several major technical areas.

Secure wireless solutions are "vitally important," Cooper said.

Next are geospatial technologies. "Every single piece of information ... we use [in] homeland security has a geospatial aspect to it," he said. "We need to invest big time."

Finally, his office is looking for technologies to address public health issues. "We have no national surveillance capability" for health or agriculture, he said. "We need big-time help here."

While these technologies are critical to homeland security, Cooper did not close the door on other solutions that companies may have.

The fiscal 2003 budget includes $12 million for pilot projects and $8 million for work on a national enterprise architecture. Spending in these two areas will increase to $28 million in fiscal 2004, he said.

Cooper has been speaking frequently to business and government groups, urging them to look for potential pilot programs. But, he said, there are strings attached:

* Projects should be no longer than 12 months, because quick results are needed.

* Each pilot should cost under $1 million.

* A pilot project should cut across agencies and levels of government. "We're not going to step up and support a project [for federal] law enforcement. Let Justice do that," he said.

* For money that goes out to state and local projects, Cooper said the state CIOs must certify that what's been done meets their standards for interoperability and security.

Companies can help the homeland security effort by identifying initiatives at the state and local level and sharing them with the Office of Homeland Security, he said. At the same time, the office is assembling a database of national experts from the technology community, to help address the needs of first responders around the country.

"We're not going to publish the list on the Web," he said. *

Staff Writer Patience Wait can be reached at pwait@postnewsweektech.com.

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