Millions of dollars in IT, physical security find place in stimulus package

Bill includes $448M for new DHS headquarters

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

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

[Update: The House and Senate have agreed on a final bill, but it is not clear yet if IT spending remains as outlined in these highlights of the proposed Senate bill.]

  • 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, 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 expected to eventually cost billions. An additional $248 million will be available to the Office of the Under Secretary of Management for planning, design, IT 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 U.S. 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 multibillion 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 backup and disaster recovery capabilities for unspecified mission-critical operations.
  • As much as $200 million for a 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's Customs and Border Protection (CBP) 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, CBP will have nearly $101 million available to buy and deploy "non-intrusive" inspection systems at U.S. ports, while the Transportation Security Administration 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 Inc. "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."

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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