Rise in Commerce's IT spending reflects role in homeland security, economy

Agencies are increasingly relying on integrators such as SAIC to help them evaluate security products, said SAIC's John Casciano.

Olivier Douliery

The departments of Homeland Security and Defense aren't the only ones getting a boost in IT spending in President Bush's fiscal 2004 budget proposal. The Commerce Department, for example, will see its IT budget rise to a proposed $1.54 billion in 2004, a $175 million increase over the 2003 request, according to the Office of Management and Budget.

The National Science Foundation will get an $8 million increase in IT funding, to $48 million. NSF also will increase its spending on IT research, including efforts to combat bioterrorism.

The proposed IT funding reflects the central role the Commerce Department will play in protecting the nation and the economy, especially in science and technology, according to the department.

IT-related funding in the Commerce Department budget includes:

*$668 million for continued development and operation of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration series of environmental satellites, an increase of $81.7 million from $586 million.

*$38.7 million for homeland security standards development related to biometric identification, threat detection and high-rise safety, an increase of $10.3 million from $28.4 million.

*$5.5 million in new funds for a scaled upgrade to the NOAA Weather Radio operation to an All Hazards Warning Network, including systems to standardize and automate receipt and dissemination of chemical and biological emergency messages.

Conrad Lautenbacher, NOAA administrator, said his bureau plays a significant role in emergency preparedness and homeland security. "We usually don't get credit for being a technology agency, but let me assure you, we are," Lautenbacher said.

Information technology takes up the largest share of all research to be funded by the National Science Foundation in its proposed 2004 budget of $5.5 billion, agency officials said.

The fiscal 2004 budget increases IT research to $302 million, a 6 percent increase from the $285 million proposed for 2003. NSF will focus on tasks such as large-scale networking, high-security systems and high-end computing.

Much of NSF's other funding areas have IT components. One of the biggest increases in funding is for research equipment and facilities, an increase of $120 million to $220 million. NSF will purchase items such as computer-driven analytical tools and high-speed networks to link more research networks, said Rita Colwell, NSF's director.

"If you are going learn more about the deepest parts of the cosmos, you need the instrumentation to do it," Colwell said.

Other research areas NSF will fund include biocomplexity, at $100 million; nanoscience, at $249 million; and mathematical sciences, at $89 million.

Biocomplexity saw the biggest funding increase of all the research areas at 26 percent, Colwell said. Work to combat bioterrorism makes up most of this funding.

About the Authors

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

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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