Border IT programs win in DHS budget plan

Other projects would wither, however

Border control technology projects won big in the administration's fiscal 2008 spending plan for the Homeland Security Department, while the CIO office and some other programs came under the budget cleaver. The administration's overall DHS funding plan would add about $1 billion to the department's budget.

The department's proposed overall spending increase to a level of $29.7 billion comes against a background of steadily increasing spending for homeland security via DHS and 30 other agencies with programs in the field, according to budget documents.

DHS' existing spending for 2007 came in the form of an enacted appropriations bill amounting to $26.9 billion, as well as supplemental funding that likely will add $1.8 billion, the administration said, amounting to a total of $28.7 billion.

The draft 2008 budget sets substantial funding for flagship border technology programs such as the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology project that processes travelers at border crossings, and the SBINet program aimed at foiling illegal entry and other crimes between ports of entry.

SBINet is set to receive $1 billion, according to the spending plan.

The program, which received its budget line item and substantial funding kick-start in 2007, likely will spend $595 million this year as it gathers momentum, according to the budget. A major beneficiary of that spending will be a systems integration team led by Boeing Co.

The spending plan sets $1.1 billion in SBINet outlays in 2008, from next year's proposed appropriations and funds provided by Congress previously.

The U.S. Visit program is slated to received $462 million, which would be a $100 million increase from the expected 2007 figure, including supplemental appropriations, of $362 million.

Leads and lags in the appropriated and expended funds would shift U.S. Visit program outlays from $347 million in 2007 to $401 million in 2008, the administration said. Much of that funding flows through systems integrator Accenture LLP of Reston, Va.

The budget plan sets $228 million of the U.S. Visit program spending for the transition from two-fingerprint to 10-fingerprint processing of biometric records.

The administration proposed cuts for some major DHS technology programs.

CBP's Automated Commercial Environment program, a long-range project to upgrade the automation of tariffs and control of trade information, among other goals, is slated for a reduction from $545 million in outlays to $381 million. ACE has been rolling out in progressive phases for several years with the assistance of systems integrator IBM Corp.

DHS' CIO office was slated for a budget level of $261 million, in contrast to the $349 million that the office likely will spend this year, under existing appropriations law and expected supplemental spending.

The budget plan sets $178.7 million for development and acquisition of IT across the department via the CIO office next year, in contrast to $269 million estimated funding for that account in 2007.

Another budget victim was Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Atlas effort, a set of seven technology projects to overhaul the agency's systems in fields ranging from data center migration to integration, architecture engineering and transformation planning.

Atlas received $20 million in planned new obligations in 2006 and likely will get $68 million in new obligated funds in 2007, according to budget detail documents.

But actual Atlas spending has lagged far behind, amounting to $6 million in 2006 and $17 million expected in 2007. Accordingly, the budget proposal sets no new funding request for Atlas and states that existing balances will be enough to keep it going.

The fate of the budget proposal now depends on Congress. Homeland security spending overall generally rates as a popular budget item in Congress, because it offers an opportunity both to claim a high level of response to foreign threats and a chance to funnel grant funds to home districts.

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