Homeland security gets top billing in budget

President Bush is making homeland security the top priority in his fiscal 2004 budget request to Congress, and promises intense scrutiny of how the funds are spent.

The $2.2 trillion budget request, published today, includes $36.2 billion in funding for the 22 departments and agencies merged into the Department of Homeland Security, up 64 percent since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The administration is requesting $59.1 billion overall for information technology, including $4.9 billion for homeland security, the war on terrorism and other modernization IT spending.

The huge spike in homeland security related spending brings with it a new challenge, said Office of Management and Budget Director Mitchell Daniels.

"We really have to concentrate this year on how well we are spending [on homeland security] - not how much," he said.

The administration will continue to review all new IT investments proposed by Department of Homeland Security agencies in order to prevent redundant investments and misspent taxpayer dollars.

OMB last July instituted a temporary freeze on new IT investments in agencies slated for the new department, pending high-level reviews of those IT plans. New investments will continue to be modified to address the government's overall homeland security needs, rather than only the needs of one agency, according to the budget document.

"If you're the contractor for a program that gets held up, that is going to be bad, but from standpoint of the interest of the country and the government, it's a good thing OMB is subjecting these programs to a higher level of scrutiny," said Payton Smith, an analyst with IT research firm Input Inc. of Chantilly, Va.

Technology-related spending in the Department of Homeland Security budget request includes:

  • $500 million to assess the nation's critical infrastructure protection - nuclear power plants, water facilities, telecommunications networks and transportation systems, and address their vulnerabilities.

  • $350 million of new funding for research and development, testing and evaluation capabilities that have not existed for specific homeland security projects, such as nuclear and bioterrorism detection technologies.

  • $373 million for border security and trade initiatives, including $120 million for new technology investments along the border, including radiation detection machines to inspect cargo containers.

  • $3.5 billion to ensure first responders, such as police and fire personnel, are properly trained and equipped.

  • $300 million for warning advisories, threat assessments, a communications system and outreach efforts to state and local governments and the private sector.

  • $480 million to continue building a system to track the entry and exit of all visitors to the United States.

  • Click here to link to White House budget materials

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