Homeland Defense IT Spending Expected to Spike

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With the Senate's passage of the new Department of Homeland Security, President Bush is expected to soon sign the bill into law paving the way for a new wave of federal information technology spending.

Input, a Chantilly, Virginia-based firm, specializing in IT market research, is out with a report estimating the new department, which brings together 22 different government agencies, will spend more than $2.1 billion on IT from its $37 billion budget.

Input expect the new government giant will be spending money on biometric technologies, data mining and geospatial information systems. Homeland security director Tom Ridge aims to interconnect the previously separate agencies, through a secure network that will link disparate government database systems.

"This is a very difficult project. The fact that there are 22 agencies that have existing customs and practices, and it's going to take several months for the new department to be where they need to be, and iron out all the details of the transition," says Scott Carter, federal market analyst for Input.

Input says the new Department of Homeland Security has four priorities: first responders, biological defense, border security and the fusion of information and intelligence. In the next year, the government is expected to award a variety of contracts for information security, reliable communications and advanced knowledge systems.

"The initial money is going to facilitate internetworking of the various agencies and the consolidation of a homeland security department portal, which will unify the computer systems of the department," Carter said.

"It's going to take time for companies to understand how the new agency's procurement processes work," Carter said. He added one of the first priorities will be creating secure network-based data and audio-video connections between federal, state and local authorities involved in homeland defense operations.

The Input study comes out on the heels of a prediction by the Government Electronics and Information Technology Association that the federal government will spend more than $74 billion on information technology in fiscal 2003. The GEITA's study expects a series of new contract opportunities for information technology companies.

Among the project GEITA points to include the Immigration and Naturalization Service's expected $1.2 billion contract to provide a variety of information resource management services and systems. There is also the Entry Exit System, a new computer system to track foreign nationals entering or leaving the United States, a project with an estimated price tag of $380 million.

The government is also expected to spend millions on new, secure wireless technologies, as well as advanced geospatial technologies, and computer hardware and software for a new "national enterprise architecture."

Although it's not entirely clear, the Pentagon is also expected to spend close to $10 million for DARPA's, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, new Information Awareness Office (IAO). The new project is currently being funded and aims to create a large-scale counterterrorism database that will keep track of every bit of information on everyone in the country, with the intention of detecting, classifying and identifying foreign terrorists. The IAO is also involved in the funding of project called "Babylon," which is a handheld automated speech translation system for the soldiers operating in countries unfamiliar with the local language.

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