Bush stays the course with DHS budget

President Bush's proposed fiscal 2009 budget for the Homeland Security Department keeps the heat on major priorities such as border control and stricter identification with a 6.8 percent overall increase, to $50.5 billion.

Major technology initiatives, including the SBInet border surveillance system, Real ID driver's license standards and the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative border crossing identification program, show stable and increasing budgets. Those programs represent large opportunities for federal contractors.

At the same time, President Bush proposed increases in manpower, including border patrol agents and immigration enforcement. The Coast Guard's Deepwater asset modernization program is budgeted for $990.4 million for surface, air and other assets.

While some observers say the lame-duck president is unlikely to convince the Democratic majority in Congress to back his budget before the presidential election, Secretary Michael Chertoff said the final year of the Bush administration nonetheless could be noteworthy.

Referring to the Super Bowl upset by the New York Giants on Sunday night, Chertoff said at a press event today: "Sometimes the most interesting stuff happens in the final quarter."

Highlights of the information technology-related funding outlined in the DHS budget request include:
  • $775 million for the Secure Border Initiative Network border surveillance system, composed of cameras, sensors and communications equipment, along the Southwest U.S. border with Mexico. The project will include development of a Common Operating Picture.
  • $390 million for the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program that fingerprints foreign visitors to continue the transformation to 10 fingerprints from two.
  • $293.5 million for the National Cyber Security Division to deploy protections on federal networks against cyber threats and intrusions.
  • $140 million for the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative to implement the rollout to land and sea ports of entry in June 2009. The program consists of implementing stricter rules for identification at the border, and deployment of new "passport card" and "enhanced driver's license" identification cards along with readers to read them.
  • $100 million for E-Verify, which is a program operated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The program allows registered employers to check on the Social Security numbers of prospective employees.
  • $57 million for Automation Modernization of IT Systems for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, including acquiring interoperable communications equipment and a biometric location tracking module, and development of an enhanced investigative case management system.
  • $50 million to support implementation of the Real ID Act of 2005 standards for state driver's licenses.
  • $25.5 million for the Coast Guard's Nationwide Automated Identification System for tracking vessels.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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