Bill would cut funds for DOD IT projects

FCS among those that lawmakers would trim to fulfill other Defense Department needs

Concerns over ballooning costs, and current combat needs, have trumped spending on the Army's Future Combat Systems, as well as other technology and transformational programs in the Fiscal 2007 National Defense Authorization bill passed by the House of Representatives earlier this month.

FCS, the Army's transformational communications program, took a $325 million hit in the $513 billion bill, which enjoyed broad bipartisan support as it passed 396 to 31. The legislation includes $50 billion in supplemental funding for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Information Technology Association of America in Arlington, Va., has estimated that the House bill cut $340 million in IT spending requested by the Bush administration.

Whether the FCS cuts are included in the final authorization bill presented for the president's signature, however, remains to be seen. The Senate Armed Services Committee's bill, which it reported out in early this month, did not cut the program. The full Senate is due to consider its authorization bill toward the end of the month.

FCS is designed to link 18 manned and unmanned wea-pons systems via a common computer network known as the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical and the System of Systems Common Operating Environment.

The weapons systems that make up FCS are expected to cost $125 billion over 20 years to build and maintain, DOD has said.

'Right now, the Army simply does not have enough funding to cover all of the bills it has to pay,' said Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), a member of the House Armed Services Committee. 'We decided to cut the FCS program because Army needs to fund things our troops need today.'

Last year, Congress cut the program by $200 million.

The ITAA also expressed concern over $50 million in cuts from the Business Transformation Agency, a unit tasked with consolidating and modernizing DOD logistics, human resources, finance, inventory management and other business applications.

'These applications keep track of things that support the warfighter,' said Trey Hod-gkins, ITAA's director for defense programs. 'They pro- mote efficiency and better management decisions. We believe that cutting systems modernization is a negative.'

Hodgkins also complained that the Pentagon's IT budget has remained flat in recent years at $31 billion, despite significant increases in total DOD spending.

The Navy-Marine Corps Intranet also is facing a cut of $70 million under the bill.

About the Author

Peter Buxbaum is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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