Funding bills shuffle IT requests

With the end of the fiscal year looming, CIOs are watching Capitol Hill closely as lawmakers hustle to finish work on bills that will fund government systems programs next year.

Many federal IT spending requests have survived intact so far. One chief exception is the Office of Management and Budget's E-Government Fund, which Congress for the third consecutive year has slashed. President Bush requested $45 million. The House approved $1 million; the Senate Appropriations Committee is recommending $5 million.

OMB balked and said in a statement, 'As has been demonstrated by successes from the modest $5 million invested in each of the last two years, the E-Gov Fund can bring significant improvements across agencies while reducing the need for each agency to 'reinvent the IT wheel.''

And a big battle is being waged over the White House's failed attempt to include funds for competitive sourcing in the House Transportation and Treasury spending bill, HR 2989, which passed last week.

If the Senate, which has not passed its version of the bill yet, follows the House's lead, the stage will be set for showdown. The president's senior advisers will recommend that Bush veto the bill if it lacks funds for competitive sourcing, the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement.

Down to the wire

The House has passed all 13 of its spending bills, but the Senate has approved only four.

Departments have budgeted IT spending to continue to modernize systems, move toward enterprise management and make Web services more citizen-friendly.

Within the Transportation and Treasury bill, S 1589, Senate Appropriations has proposed cutting $35.9 million from the National Archives and Records Administration request for the Electronic Records Archives project. The committee approved $258 million and asked for a General Accounting Office review. The House version fully funds ERA.

The Senate committee recommended $58.9 billion for the Transportation Department compared with $52.3 billion in 2003. Transportation asked for $2.6 billion for IT, including $1.9 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration's air traffic modernization, compared with $2.7 billion this year.

The committee recommended $13.9 billion for FAA, $457 million more than this year. The funding includes $223.6 million for the En Route Automation Modernization program, a 215 percent increase over this year's funding. FAA currently projects this program to cost $2.1 billion by 2010.

'FAA's budget request for ERAM provides insufficient details for a program of this importance and magnitude,' the Senate committee said in its recommendation. It expects FAA's 2005 request to provide more detail about ERAM and the associated costs to complete each component, breaking out individual elements and including timelines. The committee report said lawmakers are concerned about the potential for dramatic cost escalation on the project.

The committee reduced the recommendation for the Transportation CIO's office to $13.3 million, citing the 'high level of generality and vagueness presented in the budget justification.' For example, it was unclear how the CIO's initiative to develop an electronic grants office was related to the Federal Transit Administration's funding to improve its electronic grants system, the committee said.

The committee asked the inspector general to report on Transportation's efforts to improve IT security, e-government services and IT investment management. It also asked the IG to evaluate the CIO's effectiveness at coordinating actions with the department's operating agencies.

The committee recommended $11.2 billion total for the Treasury Department, which had requested $11.4 billion. For this year, it received $11.1 billion. Treasury asked for $2.6 billion for IT, including $2.1 billion for the IRS, $429 million of which is targeted for IRS business systems modernization.

The House version of the Treasury bill provides the IRS with $1.6 billion for systems, $8 million more than the agency received this year, but $41 million less than the administration requests. It also earmarked $429 million for business systems modernization, $66 million more than this year.

In the Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development bill, S 1584, the Senate committee recommended $62 billion total VA spending, about the same as the departments requested. The Veterans Affairs Department request had earmarked $1.5 billion for IT compared with $1.2 billion this year.

The committee approved $36.1 billion total HUD spending, $157.6 million over budget request. In 2003, HUD received $38 billion. HUD asked for $372 million for IT compared with $412 million this year.

About the Authors

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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