Transformation projects key to DoD budget growth

The White House is asking for significant funding increases in fiscal 2004 for Defense Department transformation efforts, such as satellite communications, space-based radar and cryptology, that are rich in IT, a senior defense official said at a briefing last week.

Overall, President Bush is requesting $379.9 billion for the department, $15.3 billion more than what was allotted for 2003. The administration released its 2004 budget request today. The figure does not include costs that may be associated with supporting future conflicts, the senior official said.

However, transformation efforts will result in the reallocation of $80 billion between 2004 and 2009, according to the Defense Department. The department wants to reorganize command and control operations to use recent gains in information technology and better prepare for emerging threats.

Overall, about $24 billion of the 2004 Defense Department budget will be allocated to transformational issues, about a third of the department's total discretionary budget for that year, according to the senior official.

The 2004 budget reflects a number of IT-related transformational efforts, including:

*Improved satellite communications: The budget calls for $453 million to develop a laser-based satellite communications system that would greatly improve satellite bandwidth levels, as well as $778 million to develop a new "advanced extremely high frequency" satellite constellation to replace the Milstar system.

*Space-based radar: The budget calls for $299 million to continue developing a radar to track global threats.

*Cryptologic modernization: The budget calls for $416 million to improve cryptographic techniques to protect Defense Department networks.

*Unmanned aerial and undersea vehicles: The budget calls for about $610 million to purchase more Global Hawks, $250 million to upgrade and purchase Predators and $81 million to develop unmanned undersea vehicles.

Communications systems are at heart of the defense transformation, the senior official said. The drive for greater bandwidth will be paramount to transformational efforts.

"You're limited by how much information you can generate and receive. You need the bandwidth to do that," the official said. "Laser satellite communications breaks the back of that problem. It becomes almost limitless. ... You're getting real-time information at unbelievable speeds, and we all know just by working on the Internet and computers ... what a difference it makes depending on how you link up," the official said.

The senior official would not estimate how much a possible war on Iraq would cost over the present peace-time budget, but did note that the previous war with Iraq, Operation Desert Storm, ran approximately $61 billion, of which the United States contributed $11 billion.

Documents relating to the 2004 Defense Department budget, including full defense budgets estimates can be found at http://www.dtic.mil/comptroller/defbudget/fy2004/.


About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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