DHS systems projects will take a funding hit next year

The cuts will slow U.S. Visit's rollout, DHS' Jim Williams says.

Olivier Douliery

The Homeland Security Department will have to scale back plans for its flagship border system in the wake of a $114 million fiscal 2004 budget cut.

Congress increased overall Homeland Security spending by $1 billion over the Bush administration's request of $28.4 billion. But the budgets for the entry-exit system, the CIO office and Transportation Security Administration IT suffered cuts in the appropriations bill that President Bush signed this month.

The U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indication Technology System was slated to receive $444.3 million, but Congress cut funding to $330 million.

By reducing the budget for U.S. Visit, Congress is sending a message that it wants to see improved management of the entry-exit system, Capitol Hill sources said. 'That is a high-risk program,' a Republican congressional aide said. Congress wants to reduce the risks by releasing funds incrementally, as the department presents more detailed plans, he said.

Put on the brakes

The move will slow the U.S. Visit rollout, program manager Jim Williams said. 'What we have to do is look at what we were planning to do in '04 and beyond and then quickly adjust our plans,' he said.

Williams said the money would have to cover all the program's expenses, including management support, rent for the program's office, salaries for U.S. Visit employees and the support costs for systems fielded this year.

'Once you take that off the top, frankly it doesn't leave a lot of money left over for '04,' he said this month at a meeting of the Federation of Government Information Processing Councils' Industry Advisory Committee.

The CIO office saw its budget drop from an administration request of $82.2 million to $60.5 million.

The Transportation Security Administration took a hit in its airport IT fund, which Congress reduced from $176.2 million to $139.1 million. Lawmakers also cut $5 million from a proposed $55 million for the Transportation Worker Identification Card program.

Other IT programs fared reasonably well.

Congress maintained funding for the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System II at the administration's requested level of $35 million but placed some demands on the department. Homeland Security must:
  • Create an appeals process for passengers flagged as potential terrorists.

  • Minimize the number of false positives.

  • Assure that CAPPS II cannot be hacked.

Lawmakers looked kindly on the Coast Guard's Integrated Deepwater System, which includes funds for vessels and logistics as well as IT. The bill increased funding for command, control, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to $101.4 million from $80.4 million.

The Science and Technology Directorate, which funds research, received $918.2 million, up more than $100 million from the administration's request of $803.4 million.

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