IT, security funds find place in US stimulus package

Stimulus package includes hundreds of millions of dollars for IT and physical security

The massive economic stimulus package that is working through Congress includes hundreds of millions of dollars for various IT and physical security projects, including US$448 million for a new headquarters for the US Department of Homeland Security.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other agencies responsible for managing such funds will have 60 days after the bill is enacted to explain how they will use the money.

Scattered throughout the incomplete 431-page Senate bill are various spending items targeting physical and IT security needs. Among them are the following:

  • As much as $448 million for a proposed headquarters complex for the DHS, work on which is expected to start in 2010. The new headquarters site, located at the presently shuttered St. Elizabeth's Hospital site in Washington DC, will have about 4.5 million square feet of office space. It will consolidate operations from nearly 40 federally owned and leased facilities in the National Capital Region that currently house various DHS operations, according to a DHS description of the facility. The General Services Administration had budgeted more than $330 billion for fiscal 2009 to be used in the first phase of the consolidation project, which is eventually expected to cost billions. An additional $248 million will be available to the Office of the Under Secretary of Management for planning, design, information technology infrastructure, fixtures and other costs related to the consolidation of the DHS headquarters.
  • A capital investment fund of about $524 million, of which nearly $99 million will be available to the US Department of State to carry out its responsibilities under the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative, approved by President George W Bush last year. The initiative is a highly-classified multi-billion dollar effort aimed at bolstering the ability of the federal government to detect, respond and mitigate cyberthreats. About $120 million of the investment fund is meant for designing and building new back-up and disaster recovery capabilities for unspecified mission-critical operations.
  • As much as $200 million for border security fence, infrastructure and technology for securing the nation's southwest border. Another $28 million will be available for the purchase of tactical communication equipment and radios for border security functions. The funds will likely be used by the DHS' Customs and Border Patrol agency, which is currently deploying a high-tech fence called SBInet along the Mexican and Canadian borders. The fence will include all-weather electro-optic gear, infrared cameras, radar and digital communications equipment. In addition, the US Customs and Border Patrol will have nearly $101 million available to buy and deploy "non-intrusive" inspection systems at US ports, while the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will get about $200 million for explosives detection systems.

"What leaps out is that none of that seems stimulative," said John Pescatore, an analyst at Gartner. "It all seems like things that didn't make last year's budget."

However, Pescatore said the aviation security component included in the package is "definitely" needed. "Checked baggage is a weak point."

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