Proposals for Homeland Security include similar science, tech figures

The congressional proposals for funding of science and technology initiatives for the Homeland Security Department in fiscal 2004 are largely aligned, according to the Appropriations Committee reports from the House and Senate.

The House version of the bill, H.R. 2555, would provide $900.4 million for science and technology, including $35 million for university-based centers of excellence and other university and fellowship programs, and $60 million for the research, development, testing and evaluation of an anti-missile device for commercial aircraft.

The Senate version would allocate $866 million for science and technology, including $55 million for university programs, $18 million for cybersecurity and $72 million for programs to protect critical infrastructures like telecommunications networks.

Both chambers proposed spending more than the $803.3 million that the White House requested. Fiscal 2003 spending on science and technology is $552 million.

The House voted to designate the department's science and technology directorate as an entity to centrally coordinate department efforts on testing and investing in various technologies to detect and inspect radiation, chemicals, biological agents and explosives.

The House bill also includes $72.5 million for information technology services, a cut of $2.5 million from the request of $75 million, which the Senate voted to provide in full.

Both the House and Senate would provide the $100 million requested for converting wireless radio communications to narrowband operations as required by law. The department must report to the House Appropriations Committee by Dec. 15 on how the federal wireless program would operate with state and local systems.

The House backed the White House request of $206 million for department-wide technology investments, a big increase from $63.3 million in fiscal 2003, but the Senate approved only $185 million. These investments are intended to enable the department to integrate systems and modernize business processes.

The House committee raised concern about consolidating and standardizing terrorist and criminal watch lists being maintained by the department. The committee directed the department to provide a detailed plan for that practice by Oct. 15.

But the House met the budget request of $31 million for consolidating watch lists and improving security-related information sharing among governments and with the private sector. The Senate would provide $10 million for the integration of federal watch lists.

The House committee encouraged the development of technologies to facilitate electronic information sharing by law enforcement and to link commercial and public databases. The panel further called for a department-wide inventory of existing records and a review by March 15 of the capability to convert critical records and information to digital format and online storage.

The Senate backed a plan for the National Institute of Standards and Technology to develop standards for personal protective and detection equipment and for communications technology. The House committee, meanwhile, expressed concern about research and development and standards development within the department, and specified that other offices should coordinate work with the science and technology directorate.