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Technology a winner in conferees' consolidated spending bill

Among the high points for information technology in the Consolidated Appropriations Act approved by a conference committee on Tuesday are more latitude in spending for the Veterans Affairs Department and a $140.3 million cybersecurity budget for the FBI.

In its version of the VA spending bill, the Senate had restricted the department from using $1.1 billon in IT development funds in fiscal 2010 until VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and Chief Information Officer Roger Baker completed a review of IT systems and identified which should receive funding. The department's entire fiscal 2010 IT budget is a record $3.3 billion.

The conference report for the Consolidated Appropriations Act put on hold $800.5 million in development funds until VA informs Congress which programs should receive funding.

The bill also provides appropriations for the Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Labor and State departments. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, which spearheads President Obama's initiative to build a national network for electronic health records, received $61.3 million, or $1.3 million more than HHS requested.

The report went along with the House's recommendation to not include $42.2 million for the Justice's Litigation Case Management System until the department submits a report on how it plans to contain cost and schedule overruns.

Justice received most of what it requested for its Tactical Law Enforcement Wireless Communications project, receiving $206.1 million for fiscal 2010, and boosted the budget for the Integrated Wireless Network by $21.1 million, with the condition that the money be spent on modernization of land mobile radio systems and not cellular systems.

The committee approved Justice's request of $27.4 million for cybersecurity funding.

Conferees directed the Federal Communications Commission to conduct an auction of cellular spectrum so police and fire departments nationwide could have their own interoperable communications network.

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