Justice to face lower-than-requested IT funding

The Justice Department will not be able to spend as much money as anticipated on information technology this fiscal year.

In the conference version of the fiscal 2006 State-Justice-Commerce appropriations bill, lawmakers included $90 million for a combined account funding legacy narrowband wireless communications and the Integrated Wireless Network, a nationwide effort to create an integrated voice, data and multimedia network to be used by law enforcement officers, first responders and others in the homeland security community.

That final amount is $38 million less than the $128 million Justice wanted for the combined account. It also is nearly $9 million less than the $98.7 million necessary to keep existing services in place, according to the department's budget request.

But a Justice spokeswoman said the $90 million "is sufficient to fully support the operation of the existing DOJ systems and allow the Integrated Wireless Network program to move forward."

The House approved the conference report last week and the Senate passed it earlier this week. The bill (H.R. 2862) now awaits President Bush's signature.

Conferees also appropriated $125 million for the department's Justice Information Sharing Technology account, a fund that covers several IT projects with departmentwide impact. Vance Hitch, the department's chief information officer, had hoped lawmakers would put $181 million in that account.

The Litigation Case Management System, an effort to move Justice's seven attorney components to one case management system, is included under that central fund.

In the report accompanying the State-Justice-Commerce bill, Congress also directed Justice to establish a governance board for reviewing critical IT projects. The Justice CIO already chairs an IT investment review board that the department fully established in fiscal 2005, but lawmakers want the deputy attorney general to lead it.

"We will continue to improve our IT governance process at the direction of Congress," said Price Roe, special assistant to the Justice CIO.

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