Budget roundup

What matters most to you in the fiscal '06 request

Bush wants big money for DHS

President Bush wants to increase IT spending at the Homeland Security Department by a whopping 25 percent in fiscal 2006 to $6.0 billion from $4.8 billion.

The president requested $65.1 billion for federal IT in 2006, an increase of 7.1 percent over 2005's $60.8 billion. The request for civilian IT is $35 million; defense IT would get $30.1 billion. Other big winners include the Justice Department, which is slated for a 23 percent increase to $2.7 billion from $2.2 billion, and Veterans Affairs, tapped for a 23.5 percent increase to $2.1 billion from $1.7 billion.

The president's budget proposal also demands that DHS consolidate some operations. The administration plans to centralize management of some of the agency's most high-profile IT projects into a new Screening Coordination and Operations Office within the Border and Transportation Security Directorate.

The new office would take over:

  • The U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program

  • The Secure Flight passenger-screening program

  • The Crew Vetting aircraft crew-screening program

  • The Free and Secure Trade cargo risk-assessment project

  • The Transportation Worker Identification Credential program to distribute identity cards to all transportation workers

  • The Registered Traveler program

  • The Hazardous Material Background Checks initiative
  • The Alien Flight School Checks program.

Programs in the new coordination office would share a budget of $846.9 million, with U.S. Visit slated to take a large slice at $390 million, up $50 million from this year.

DHS' consolidation plans also include continued growth for its IT networks. For example, the Transportation Security Administration would get $174 million for its High Speed Operational Capability project to provide data connections to checkpoints at airports.

Large cash injection for military IT

The Defense Department unveiled a proposed budget of $419.3 billion that calls for raising the military's IT spending by 4.9 percent ? the largest margin in the past four years.

President Bush asked Congress to approve the increase and bring defense IT spending next year to $30.1 billion.

"The 2006 budget supports substantial investments in advanced technology to provide advantages over our enemies, particularly in remote sensing and high-performance computing," the Pentagon noted in a summary of IT spending.

The IT budget will go to communications projects that improve connectivity between troops and commanders beyond the field of battle.

"These developments are improving our ability to detect and counter the broad range of threats facing the United States, reaping benefits for both U.S. forces and homeland security," the Pentagon said in a budget note.

The proposal includes a 3.1 percent personnel pay raise and additional bonuses to support recruiting and retention. The president also would increase by 1,400 the number of special operations personnel in the intelligence community.

Some defense budget highlights include:

  • $613 million for acquisition of the Littoral Combat Ship, an increase of $156 million from this year

  • $836 million to continue development of Transformational Satellite Communications

  • $1.2 billion for the Advanced Extremely High-Frequency Satellite Communications System

  • $1.7 billion for unmanned vehicles

  • $3.4 billion for the Army's Future Combat System.

And two became one: FTS-FSS merger planned

The Bush administration wants to combine the Federal Supply and Federal Technology services into a single organization.

In the fiscal 2006 budget request, the administration said changes to the way IT is acquired mean that the General Service Administration's "two separate supply and technology organizations are no longer needed."

"The budget proposes to break down these artificial barriers by merging the two services into a Federal Technology and Supply Service," a budget note stated. "The result of this restructuring includes increasing organizational efficiencies, improving coordination by streamlining functions and achieving savings for customer agencies by modifying fee structures."

The decision to merge the two organizations also comes before Congress can legislate changes. Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, has made it clear over the past six months that his committee will look closely at GSA, particularly at its organizational structure and the roles of FSS and FTS.

The budget proposal noted that GSA by January 2006 must reduce fees that agencies pay to use governmentwide acquisition contracts. GSA also plans to merge the General Supply Fund and the IT Fund into a General Services Fund.

Walking the talk: Bush backs health IT

President Bush has advocated the adoption of health IT, such as electronic health records, and in the fiscal 2006 budget he has requested $125 million to back up that talk.

The Health and Human Services Department would receive $5.3 billion in IT spending next year, nearly 2 percent more than the $5.2 billion for this year. Total agency discretionary spending edged down 1 percent to $67.2 billion.

Most of the health IT funds would cover grants for projects by regional health organizations and for health information networks. The Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT would receive $75 million for planning activities to support electronic prescriptions and the development of standards for electronic patient records.

The White House also requested $50 million in Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality grant funding for projects that show how IT can be used to improve patient safety.

For the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the budget seeks $149.8 million for the Healthcare Integrated General Ledger Accounting System. HIGLAS will support accounting for Medicare claims and other financial operations for the center and is a component of the department's Unified Financial Management System.

HIGLAS processes 3.5 million transactions daily and supports 52 Medicare contractors. Next year, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services wants to implement HIGLAS for more contractors, roll out the administrative accounting module and complete other payment interfaces.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expects to receive $68 million for its Public Health Informatics standards effort to allow for data sharing. The amount reflects $5 million less for the Public Health Information Network as the agency moves from the design of the system to its implementation.

The budget would allocate $4.2 billion for bioterrorism spending, $154 million more than Health and Human Services plans to spend this year, including:

  • $1.8 billion for the National Institutes of Health to research and develop countermeasures against chemical, nuclear and radiological threats

  • $600 million for the Strategic National Stockpile, which contains vaccines, antibiotics, pharmaceutical supplies and casualty treatment units that can be delivered anywhere in the country within 12 hours

  • $244 million for the Food and Drug Administration for biological, chemical, food and radiological surveillance efforts, and for the Food Emergency Response Network and Emergency Response and Operations Network

  • $70 million for the Health Resources and Services Administration's initiative to track state and local hospital capacity to accommodate medical care demands after an attack involving weapons of mass destruction.

? From staff reports

 

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