GSA’s proposed budget boosts e-government, building security

The Bush administration's fiscal 2003 budget proposal for the General Services Administration includes the largest requests to date for e-government initiatives, building repairs and increased security at federal facilities. GSA's proposed $18.9 billion budget for fiscal 2003 includes $45 million to finance interagency e-government projects, $986 million to repair and renovate existing federal buildings and $400 million to improve security in government buildings. In addition to the proposed $45 million for federal e-government initiatives, the administration is seeking $5 million to expand FirstGov, the government's one-stop Web portal created during the last days of the Clinton administration, and another $5 million to enhance the Federal Consumer Information Center, which operates a toll-free hotline for information about federal services. The budget proposal aims to consolidate the efforts of FirstGov and the Federal Consumer Information Center into a new Office of Citizen Services. GSA's fiscal 2002 budget proposal included $20 million for e-government, one of the five key elements of President Bush's management and performance plan. The administration is also seeking about $1.5 billion for GSA's Public Buildings Service, which maintains and manages approximately 1,700 federal facilities. The proposal includes $556 million for the construction and acquisition of federal facilities, and a record $986 million to repair and renovate existing buildings. The funds for repairs and alterations is the largest such request in recent memory, said Bill Early, GSA's chief financial officer and Paul Chistolini, deputy commissioner of the Public Buildings Service, during an agency budget briefing on Tuesday. GSA's fiscal 2002 repairs and alterations budget was about $870 million. Early and Chistolini estimated that more than $4 billion is needed to repair and upgrade federal buildings. "We are pleased with the [proposed] level of funding," Early said. "If we can maintain that level, the backlog should diminish, although we can't predict what other budgets will be like." The General Accounting Office has been monitoring the deterioration of federal facilities since the early 1990s, and last May urged Congress to give GSA the legislative authority to use new means of paying for much-needed repairs to federal buildings. The $556 million for building and acquiring new federal facilities includes $177 million for a new Census Bureau building in Suitland, Md., $9 million for environmental testing at the Washington, D.C., Southeast Federal Center site, a former industrial area, and $27 million to upgrade five border stations on the border with Canada. GSA's proposal also includes $400 million for tighter security in federal buildings, including funds for more guards, security devices and reinforced walls, windows and roofs. After the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Okla., GSA obligated $233.8 million for security upgrades in federal buildings, increasing that figure to about $300 million in fiscal 2002. An additional $10 million in the agency's budget request would go to antiterrorism efforts, including a joint project between GSA and the U.S. Marshals Service to buy biometric equipment that can identify human palm prints and other distinctive characteristics.
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