Bush ups the ante with $45b proposal for IT

Bush ups the ante with $45b proposal for IT

BY TONY LEE ORR | GCN STAFF

President Bush wants agencies to prove they can get results with the nearly $45 billion he proposes the government spend on information technology in fiscal 2002.

His final budget proposal, released this month, begins with an appeal to improve performance and use the Internet to create a citizen-centric government. It also promises a $20 million electronic-government fund.

In September, Bush will require agencies to submit performance-based budgets for a selected set of programs. Agencies also will be informed of performance targets that the administration has set and that the proposal said will be 'compatible with funding levels.'

Federal managers will be held accountable for hitting the targets, the proposal said.

Overall, Bush proposed spending about $400 million more on IT next year than the government allocated for fiscal 2001.

Some agencies would see big increases. The Treasury Department would gain $239 million, followed closely by the Health and Human Services Department, which would gain $201 million. Other departments eyeing budget boosts include the Transportation Department, with a $176 million jump, and the Agriculture Department, which would receive $105 million more next year.

Details about how the increases would be spent were not included in the proposal.

USDA's extra funding is likely to draw scrutiny because the proposal also earmarked cuts for natural resources management as well as some other modernization and ongoing projects, analysts with Input of Chantilly, Va., said.

Input also noted the scant increase in IT spending for the Education Department given the Bush administration plans for improving the nation's educational programs.

The IT budget for Education would rise 1.5 percent. But funds for student financial aid systems suffered cuts, despite the proposed increase and Bush's promise to give priority to students, Input analysts said.

State Secretary Colin Powell's clout within the administration is evident in the 9 percent increase in the State Department systems budget, Input noted. The Bush plan proposed funding for critical upgrades in systems security and worldwide telecommunications systems.

Of agencies facing potential cuts, NASA would see its IT budget shrink most, with a proposed cut of $137 million, Input said.

Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans praised the Bush budget proposal as putting first things first, even though his department would be the second biggest budget loser under the plan. The Commerce IT staff would work with $81 million less than it has this year.

The budget proposal makes no specific funds available for Commerce's Digital Department initiative. Some of the cuts can be attributed to the phase-out of the decennial Census activities, Input analysts said.

The Justice Department also would lose IT funding, with its budget earmarked for a $33 million cut.

Trend follower

The Defense Department's IT budget would remain nearly the same under Bush's proposal, dropping $2 million from its current level.

IT spending at Defense is following a trend that began under Bush's predecessor, said Jim Kane, president and chief executive officer of Federal Sources Inc. of McLean, Va.

Last year, industry analysts estimated that the Defense IT budget for the coming years looked fairly flat, he said. If Congress OKs the Bush proposal, the trend would continue, Kane said.

Overall, federal IT spending would increase roughly 2.7 percent, which while a lower hike than the past couple of years still reflects a continuing growth trend, he said.

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