State of the union: Will security push lead to IT boost?

State of the union: Will security push lead to IT boost?

President Bush

In his state of the union speech last week, President Bush stuck with his oft-stated homeland security priorities: fighting bioterrorism, securing borders and airports, beefing up emergency response and improving intelligence gathering.

The underlying outcome would seem to be a boost in federal IT spending. So far, though, large new sums have not been forthcoming.

'Bush has been consistent about using IT as an enabler to security,' said Bob Nabors, senior vice president of Electronic Data Systems Corp.'s U.S. government group and a former Army major general in charge of the Communications and Electronics Command. 'But of the president's $40 billion supplemental budget [for 2001] not enough was IT dollars.'
That could be changing.

Bush last week again said he wants to use technology to track the arrivals and departures of all visitors to the United States. That means the administration is likely to support two bills introduced at the end of the last congressional session that would fund enhanced border security.

Borders' bonuses

The House passed Rep. James Sensenbrenner's (R-Wis.) bill Dec. 19'the day it was introduced'by voice vote. HR 3525 would provide $150 million to the Immigration and Naturalization Service for border technology. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) introduced a companion bill,
S 1749, that had 40 co-sponsors.

The administration also wants to install a system that would ensure INS agents across the country receive timely data.

Plus, IT will help federal border agents track the movement of cargo. The administration plans to request $5 billion in 2003 so INS can do these things, according to White House documents released last week.

Other INS initiatives include a system to identify high-risk agriculture cargo and one to track animal products entering the country.

Another part of the Bush homeland security plan is intelligence collecting and sharing. The administration wants seamless information-sharing systems throughout the law enforcement community, linking the FBI, CIA, and state and local authorities.

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