Future budget crunch could put Defense IT on the hot seat

It is absolutely critical that we deliver on these programs because the budgets are going to be tight.'

' Defense CIO Linton Wells

Despite an increase in spending for 2006, the Defense Department could face budget decreases over the next six years and escalating costs such as health care spending. The Pentagon's IT systems will be under increased pressure to deliver on time and on budget to guarantee funding.

For example, the $18 billion Transformational Satellite program received $300 million in cuts for fiscal 2005. Linton Wells II, CIO and assistant secretary of Defense for network and information integration, said congressional leaders are concerned about space programs that routinely come in over budget and behind schedule. TSAT fell victim in 2005 to this thinking.

'The whole satellite question is under review. Anything that flies in orbit is tarred by association,' Wells said Jan. 20 at a breakfast held by Input of Reston, Va. 'It is absolutely critical that we deliver on these programs because the budgets are going to be tight.'

Encouraging signs

Wells said he was encouraged by the support Defense has given TSAT and other network-centric programs for the 2006 budget.

TSAT will assist communications over the Global Information Grid, DOD's massive project to create a worldwide network for voice, data and video communications. TSAT will form a laser communications backbone in space and will operate at tens of gigabits per second. The system is being pushed by senior Defense leaders as a way to free users from existing bandwidth constraints.

Wells also discussed a pilot the Defense Department's new Contingency Support and Migration Planning Division is working on in Afghanistan. The pilot, expected to begin operation this year, applies metadata tags to information collected by border workers in Afghanistan. The system lets workers electronically record data from license plates and driver's licenses to help counterterrorism efforts.

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