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Bush Proposes Federal IT Budget Increase Of 3.8% In Fiscal 2009

For the first time ever, the White House submitted its budget to Congress electronically.
President Bush's $3.1 trillion federal budget proposed for fiscal 2009 includes $71.1 billion for government IT initiatives.

The budget, which was sent to Congress on Monday, proposes a 3.8% increase in IT spending over the $68.3 billion that was enacted for fiscal 2008, Karen Evans, the federal government's CIO, said in an interview with InformationWeek.

Evans, whose official title is Office of Management and Budget administrator of e-government and information technology, said that despite the overall IT spending increases proposed, the budget also reflects efficiency and the success of some government agencies and departments. For instance, while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers IT budget is reduced by 36% in the proposal, those cuts are possible through savings achieved by various IT programs there, she said.

Areas of increased IT spending reflect the president's other overall budget priority areas, Evans said. Among the high priorities getting a boost in overall spending in the FY09 budget is homeland security.

In the OMB budget document for the Homeland Security Department, the administration says it's looking to "expand E-Verify, the Employment Eligibility Verification Program." The budget proposes "$100 million to continue expansion and enhancements for the Internet-based system that helps participating U.S. employers hire and maintain a legal workforce."

When it comes to health care IT, the president's budget also highlighted a desire to "facilitate health information technology advancements through the adoption of policies that encourage physicians and other to adopt electronic health records and through furthering technologies for safe, secure, health information exchange."

However, health IT spending, including that by the Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Health and Human Services, is proposed to stay about flat, or $5.5 billion in fiscal 2009, compared with fiscal 2008, Evans said.

Among health IT-related initiatives is a proposed budget of $18 million for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONCHIT). That's down significantly from a budget of $42 million in fiscal 2008. That office is charged with providing "counsel to the secretary of health and human services and departmental leadership for the development and nationwide implementation of an interoperable health information technology infrastructure." However, the Bush budget also proposes $66 million for ONCHIT "programs," up from $61 million in fiscal 2008.

So, what else is different in the FY09 budget besides the numbers? For the first time ever, the White House submitted its budget to Congress electronically, Evans said.

The digitized budget document was securely transmitted to Congress by the executive clerk for the president, using Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 credentials, including digital signature, Evans said.

By sending the budget to Congress electronically, the federal government will save 20 tons of paper, or the equivalent of 480 trees, said Evans. Typically, OMB prints out 3,000 copies of the budget for members of Congress and others. Each copy this year would require 2,200 pages of printed paper.

OMB will save about $1 million over five years by digitizing the federal budget document, she said. "OMB went green," Evans said.

Members of Congress and other individuals can still request a printed version of the document -- but it'll cost them $213 per copy, she said.

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