Information technology permeates Defense appropriations bills

The Defense Department appropriations bills passed by Congress are peppered with references to information technology programs.

Defense appropriations eclipse all other agencies in the federal government. The White House requested $372 billion overall; the House provided $369 billion, the Senate $386.6 billion.

The House offered $27.6 billion for information technology, undercutting the White House request of $27.9 billion by some $321 million. The committee said it "remains concerned about the continued growth in information technology programs, particularly the growth in operation and maintenance accounts."

The committee said that during the past two years the IT budget has increased over 15 percent in the operation and maintenance accounts. The committee said it fully supports the department's "transformation" of its systems and methodologies, but said it "continues to believe that the Department of Defense must be more effective in eliminating unneeded legacy [pre-existing] systems and consolidating the large number of disparate networks that are currently being maintained."

This led to reductions of $100 million for Navy and Air Force, and $60 million for Army and department-wide.

Programs in the IT category of the budget include Army programs in online technology training and distance learning. It also includes a study on how Internet and wireless technology are transforming military life, and an Army Web-based portal initiative.

Another significant IT appropriation is the Future Combat System, which the House would give $1.7 billion. That program is a family of advanced, networked systems that are air and ground-based and will work as a single entity instead of a collection of disparate systems.

Also, the Air Force requested $439 million for an advanced wideband system, but the House cut that to $289 million. The system is envisioned as using satellite laser communications and Internet protocols to provide a "significant leap" in communications bandwidth for the military, intelligence community and NASA, the committee said.

But the committee said it fears the "extremely aggressive [advanced wideband system] acquisition schedule could ultimately become a rush to failure." The committee said it is "further concerned" that certain activities will occur "prior to a firm understanding of detailed user requirements, a problem significantly exacerbated by the number and variety of users that must be satisfied with this system."

The House Appropriations Committee instructed the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, logistics and technology to provide a report within 120 days of enactment of the law on the steps the department has taken to ensure that "lead systems integrator" contracting mechanisms have adequate safeguards. The notion is that lead contractors must ensure sensitive information is protected as they subcontract portions of the contract. The report must include a review of how the department intends to ensure adequate firewalls exist between the parent company and the subcontractors.

The Senate would cut the Defense Information Systems Agency funding request of $1.1 billion to $1 billion.

The Senate also includes $7 million for a Defense biometrics program. The Appropriations Committee encouraged the Homeland Security Department to establish a biometrics office to coordinate their biometrics efforts with Defense.