After a self-imposed one-year deadline to pass a budget package to fund the new department, Congress barely kept the entire government running with a stopgap spending measure in late September. By mid-October, a compromise had yet to be reached. Now, most expect that any budget that might get passed won’t emerge until after the November elections — putting the fate of the proposed Department of Homeland Security in the hands of a lame duck Congress. Or delay everything until after the first of the year.
The anniversary of the terrorist attacks has come and gone, while senators have yet to settle on a final budget measure.
Nevertheless, researchers at McLean, Va.-based Federal Sources Inc. (a sister company to the owner of this magazine) insist that homeland security is an emerging field with the potential to breath a little life back into a wheezing Dow — and a radio communications industry that has taken its own share of hits in the cascading tech crash.
The issue of homeland security also promises the biggest shift in the president’s cabinet in more than 60 years. But this new market — worth an expected $38 billion in the pending homeland defense budget — will remain elusive to newer players. For the time being, incumbent contractors and legacy systems will rule the day, according to the experts at Federal Sources Inc.
Despite that, the federal budget had grown considerably with the return of the deficit — fueled by increased defense spending and the pending birth of the Department of Homeland Security. As such, information technology spending is up — while maintaining a similar share of the budget.
Specifically, homeland security IT spending at the federal level is expected to focus on enterprise architecture, wireless communications, data mining and biometrics. At the state level — where the White House has asked for $3.5 billion for first responders — infrastructure expansion is predicted. Locally, spending will probably focus on first responder technology.
And the local level is where the debate intensifies. Mayors across the nation demand that involvement in spending decisions — rather than remain at the mercy of state disbursement. Several mayors are asking that $2.5 billion be sent to cities directly. In Denver alone, according to the Rocky Mountain News, experts estimate $3 million will be needed to prepare for an attack — with $500,000 expected for an upgraded emergency operations center.
Researchers at FSI explain that a portrait of a splintered market emerges from all these facts and figures — a marketplace that includes 30,000 municipalities and political subdivisions. And from that cacophony of buyers, the Federal Emergency Management Agency rises. FEMA is expected to lead the way in managing grants to states for homeland security — grants that will most likely focus on the role of the first responder.
Experts also insist that plans are in the works for a coordinated strategy among federal, state and local governments — but that remains a long-term goal.