Defense committees must resolve IT spending gap

The White House has barked back at House lawmakers' attempt to slice $1.7 billion from the $28 billion in fiscal 2004 IT funding proposed for the Defense Department.

The administration issued its complaint after the House and Senate had approved authorization bills that call for $400.5 billion in 2004 funding for Defense and national security programs of the Energy Department.

The House bill would trim President Bush's requested Defense IT budget; the Senate bill has no such clause.

'The administration strongly opposes the bill's $1.7 billion reduction for IT programs, including the $1.4 billion across-the-board reduction spread across several titles,' the Office of Management and Budget said last month in a statement.

The $28 billion is nearly half of the $59.4 billion that Bush requested in total IT investments for the federal government for next year.

'At a time when IT investment is becoming even more critical to success on the battlefield and in business, the committee has proposed cutting the department's IT budget by over 7 percent, reducing the allocation to below fiscal 2003 levels,' OMB said.

Such a reduction would negatively affect military readiness, the White House argued: 'While the administration is committed to improving governmentwide IT management, these reductions to the IT budget request would seriously impair the department's ability to continue the global war on terrorism and Defense transformation.'

Larger cuts proposed

Some lawmakers had sought an even larger cut.

Rep. Jim Saxton (R-N.J.), chairman of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities, had asked for a $2 billion reduction in Defense IT spending. Saxton said he was not convinced that department leaders had fully justified their spending plans.

He added that because past DOD systems investments have met with only limited success, subcommittee members were concerned that additional money would be wasted on programs and systems that lack proper planning.

The House and Senate armed services committees have sent the bills to conference committee to iron out differences.

The bills recommend that DOD receive more than $60 billion for research and technology programs, more than $70 billion for weapons purchases and $10 billion for science and technology systems. The bills also call for acquisition reforms to help small businesses and modernize the Pentagon's civilian personnel system.

The authorization bills recommend $18.2 billion for Defense-wide R&D, of which $286 million would be spent on operational tests and evaluations.

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