Spending bills include multiple tech provisions

The federal government's emphasis on homeland security has prompted appropriators to write numerous security-related provisions into the proposed fiscal 2003 spending bills, and some of the funding proposals involve technology. The fate of those ideas, however, remains unclear, as the start of the new fiscal year approaches and the appropriations process appears stagnant.

With less than two weeks remaining in the fiscal year, no appropriations bills have been sent to President Bush. A feud between moderates and conservatives over the Labor-Health and Human Services spending bill has delayed House action. The Senate has spent two weeks debating its fiscal 2003 Interior spending bill, which has been slowed by a still-unresolved debate over forest fire policy and the passage of $6 billion in drought aid for farm states.

Although some of the annual measures may not move separately because of legislative time constraints, homeland security funding seems likely to be a core component of any spending bill this year. And the unfinished bills offer a glimpse of the cash that is likely to come.

The Senate version of the Transportation appropriations bill touches on one of the more controversial issues: explosive detection systems for airports. The measure would put $124 million toward investments in such systems, with the money available until Sept. 30, 2004. Also within that bill, $5 billion would go to the Transportation Security Administration.

The Senate's Commerce-Justice-State bill includes one of the larger chunks of technology-related security money. It would allocate up to $65 million for automated data processing, as well as telecommunications and technical investigative equipment. The bill also would provide $475.3 million for counterterrorism investigations, foreign counterintelligence and other national security activities.

The proposed $4.2 billion for the FBI, which has shifted its focus to anti-terrorism efforts, would include $21 million for the National Infrastructure Protection and Computer Intrusion Program and $50 million for investigative data warehousing. The Immigration and Naturalization Service, meanwhile, would receive $362 million for an entry-exit system to track immigrants and $83.4 million to make its "Chimera" computer network interoperable, among other things.

State and local officials also stand to benefit through grant programs like those run through the Justice Department's Office of Domestic Preparedness and Community Oriented Policing Services program. ODP would receive slightly more than $2 billion, including money for state equipment grants. COPS funding would include $100 million to help state and local "first responders" to emergencies improve their communications equipment and $118.6 million for the COPS Technology Program.

The Senate bill to fund the Veterans Affairs Department, Housing and Urban Development and other agencies includes a provision for emergency-management planning and assistance. Among other things, it would provide $1.1 billion to conduct security clearances on state and local emergency-management personnel, $180 million to help make communications equipment interoperable and $60 million for training local "first responders" to emergencies.

The Senate measure to fund programs in the District of Columbia would allow the chief technology officer there to purchase up to $500,000 without approval or review, and the city would receive $10 million for the construction of interoperable communications infrastructure. That bill also would provide $15 million for emergency preparedness to cover public-safety expenses related to security events in the District and "costs of providing support to respond to immediate and specific terrorist threats or attacks."

The House Legislative Branch spending bill contains several security-related provisions. For example, it would prohibit any federal agency from monitoring personal information on the Internet, barring the use of federal funds to do so, but Web site operators could collect information for law enforcement or security purposes.

The House Treasury-Postal appropriations bill also would provide $24.1 million for the White House Office of Homeland Security and require the office to submit a detailed budget estimate by Nov. 1. In addition, the bill would provide $249.7 million for the National Archives and the Information Security Oversight Office to archive federal records and declassify documents, among other things.

Also in the House, the Labor-HHS bill would provide $20 million for a fund to foster departmental innovation in cyber and information technology security. And the Treasury-Postal bill would allocate $3.8 million for information technology modernization and $258,000 for "unforeseen emergencies of a confidential nature."