Lawmakers pump up DOD systems budgets

If the House and Senate Defense oversight committees have their
way, the Army's information technology budget would get a $260 million boost next year.
Lawmakers want to fatten Navy and Air Force IT budgets, too.

In separate versions of the fiscal 1997 Defense authorization bill released early this
month, the House National Security Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee also
recommended modest additions to the Navy and Air Force IT budgets.

The extra funds, referred to as plus-ups on Capitol Hill, would augment $9.8 billion in
IT and $13.5 billion in command, control and communications spending authority requested
by the Pentagon and incorporated into the Clinton administration's 1997 budget proposal.

In contrast to last year, many of the largest plus-ups for 1997 are supported by both
houses of Congress. With such close figures, these additions stand a fair chance of
surviving the reconciliation process.

Congress wants to add $100 million to the Army's Force XXI battlefield digitization
program, for instance. The extra money, slated for accelerated testing and procurement of
promising new technologies, would complement more than $100 million the Army already has
requested for R&D for digitization in 1997.

Both committees also want to boost next year's procurement of tactical computers for
the Standard Army Management Information Systems, from the $27 million requested by the
Army to almost $58 million in the Senate bill or $69 million in the House bill.

Likewise, the Senate would add $20 million, and the House $25 million, to a $48 million
procurement request for the Army Data Distribution System.

Despite recent General Accounting Office criticisms of the Force XXI program, members
of the Senate committee also would like to add over $100 million to the Army's budget for
battlefield communications systems that will link mobile computer systems developed under
the digitization program.

These include plus-ups for the Enhanced Position Locator Reporting System--$20 million,
the Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System--$43 million, and the Warfighter
Information Network--$40 million.

Committee members in both houses noted a concern about the services' base-level
communications networks, most of which are in dire need of modernization.

The Senate wants to give the Army $27 million in unrequested dollars to jump start such
work. Both houses would add money to the Marine Corps' $53 million budget for base-level
communications modernization: The House offers $18 million; the Senate $36 million. The
House, however, recommends trimming $10 million from the $125 million the Air Force has
requested for this purpose; the Senate thinks that figure is fine.

Both committees left the Defense Information Systems Agency's $97 million procurement
budget for 1997 untouched. Some $41 million is earmarked to buy hardware and software for
the Defense Message System (DMS), which the Defense Department has slated for large-scale
fielding late next year. DISA also plans to spend $20 million for mobile satellite
communications equipment and $17 million for information systems security.

The two versions of the 1997 authorization bill are conspicuously silent on issues that
prompted criticism in recent years: DOD's chronic accounting problems, delays in
modernization efforts like the Corporate Information Management initiative, and shortfalls
in funds for information systems security.

Even when passed, the Defense authorization act will not have the last say on DOD's
systems budget. That will be determined by the Defense appropriations bills, which are
being drafted by the House and Senate Appropriation committees and could be reconciled as
early as July. But the appropriations panels are supposed to look to the oversight
committees' proposals in the authorization bills.

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