1999 IT budget increases go mostly to law enforcement modernization

Congress last week finished its yearly appropriations work, and the bulk of increases
for information technology spending are earmarked for law enforcement systems.


The omnibus bill that includes fiscal 1999 spending for all federal agencies was signed
by President Clinton last week. All told, agencies are expected to spend close to $29
billion on IT in this fiscal year.


The bill provides $2.25 billion for civilian agencies’ date code work and another
$1.1 billion for Defense Department year 2000 projects.


Although Congress approved funding for several big systems initiatives, the money comes
with some strings attached.


The Customs Service will get $8 million for its Automated Commercial Environment
project to overhaul the 14-year-old system it uses to process cargo transactions from
brokers, shippers and freight forwarders. But lawmakers stipulated that $6 million will be
withheld until Customs provides a detailed enterprise systems architecture.


The Justice Department received the go-ahead to spend $10 million to develop the Joint
Automated Booking System. JABS will provide a common automated booking station for Justice
law enforcement agencies, easing the electronic collection, storage and sharing of
offender information.


But lawmakers said implementation of the system will likely be expensive. They want a
report by March 1 on the program’s scope and how Justice will finance it.


Congress also asked Justice to identify what priority the JABS project has over other
systems infrastructure and technology initiatives.


The FBI will receive $50 million to enhance its systems architecture. The bureau wants
to improve its ability to share information with other law enforcement agencies.


But before the FBI can spend any money on new technology, it must submit a
comprehensive, five-year implementation plan that includes:


Capitol Hill lawmakers noted concern that the organizational and technical challenges
of the FBI’s plan could grow too expensive without strict oversight.


The IRS will receive $211 million for technology upgrades, but, like the FBI, the money
will not be available until the IRS submits an approved plan to Congress.


The IRS plan must detail for Congress how it will implement the modernization blueprint
it submitted last year.


The plan must also get approval from the Office of Management and Budget, the IRS
Management Board and the General Accounting Office, Congress directed.


IRS commissioner Charles Rossotti said he was satisfied with the congressional
appropriation. “It’s a very positive sign. Obviously it’s still a very
tight budget, but it does support this whole modernization program,” he said.  

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