Tech-related programs receive funding in omnibus bill

Some receive lower appropriations than sought by industry.

The omnibus appropriations bill that Congress passed late Saturday includes funding for various technology-related federal programs in fiscal 2005 but occasionally at lower funding levels than some industry players sought.

The Justice Department won $5.2 billion for the FBI, including new funds for training and information technology.

The agency would receive $35 million to relocate its counter-terrorism division to the Terrorist Threat Integration Center run by the CIA. The center is designed to share information with the FBI and the Homeland Security Department.

The FBI also would receive $20 million to outfit a field office to handle classified information, $10 million for training, $9 million to run a records-management center, $8 million to buy helicopters and other equipment, and $2 million for an office in West Africa.

Within the agency's counterintelligence funding, no less than $5 million "shall be available to combat industrial espionage and other threats to intellectual property rights of manufacturers and researchers" said the conference report to the bill.

Congress voted to fund the National Intellectual Property Law Enforcement Coordination Council with a $2 million grant, its first direct appropriation. The interagency council, which had been funded through the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, is designed to combat piracy and counterfeiting. The Senate had proposed $20 million.

USTR, meanwhile, would receive $42 million under the bill.

The conference report also touched on the issue of online pornography, with lawmakers calling for Justice's office of juvenile justice to report to the Appropriations Committee. "The conferees desire a better understanding of what types and how many Internet safety programs are being federally funded," the report said.

The measure also would fund several tech-related Commerce Department agencies. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration would receive $39 million, versus $17 million sought by the House and $58 million sought by the Senate.

Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security would get $68 million, and the legislation would provide $6.5 million to the Office of Technology Policy.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology would receive $708 million, closer to the Senate's $784 million mark than the House's $524 million. Congress preserved the Manufacturing Extension Partnership program from cuts and renamed its locations "Hollings Centers," after the retiring Sen. Ernest (Fritz) Hollings, D-S.C.

The Antitrust Modernization Commission that Congress created but failed to fund in 2002 would receive $1.2 million, nearly identical to the House level. The Senate had not allocated funds for the initiative of House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.

Among independent agencies funded under the bill, the Securities and Exchange Commission would receive $913 million; the FCC, $281 million; and the FTC, $205 million.

The conference report also includes language likely to benefit AT&T in a legal dispute involving fees paid to regional Bell telephone companies. "The conferees direct the FCC not to take any action that would directly or indirectly have the effect of raising the rates charged to military personnel or their families for telephone calls placed using prepaid phone cards," the report said.