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High-tech security may get $1 billion boost

An economic stimulus package being crafted by Senate Democrats may include an "IT Fund" to bankroll security projects to the tune of $1 billion, CNET has learned.

A $20 billion stimulus package in the works by Senate Democrats may include $1 billion to bankroll an information-technology fund, CNET has learned.

As proposed by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., the U.S. Office of Management and Budget would administer the fund and award money to projects that aim to further protect the United States' critical infrastructures, improve the security of government computer systems, or harden the nation's defenses against natural and manmade threats.

Leslie Phillips, communications director for the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee--headed by Lieberman--confirmed the fund is likely to be part of the economic stimulus proposal being created by Democratic senators.

"Lieberman wants to see the economic stimulus put to good use, and there is no better use than bolstering our homeland defense through an IT Fund," she said in an e-mail interview.

"New information technologies can improve aviation security, defenses against biological and chemical attacks, and communication between law enforcement agencies, just to name a few examples. These investments will better protect Americans and help revive the flagging high-tech sector."

The IT Fund has been proposed as part of the $20 billion economic stimulus package being created by Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Unlike the $89 billion stimulus plan proposed by Senate Republicans on Tuesday, which focused on tax cuts, the Democrats' proposal would provide funding for federal law enforcement and anti-terrorism activities, transportation security, response to bioterrorism threats, protection of the critical infrastructure, and border security.

Along with a tax-cut proposal being readied by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, the stimulus package to be proposed by Senate Democrats could total $55 billion.

The potential of getting a $1 billion shot in the arm has IT executives hopeful.

"We very much like the idea," said Robert Holleyman, CEO of the Business Software Alliance. "Spending $1 billion of federal investments in information technology is certainly significant. The bigger effect, of course, is that (the fund) will provide for increased security at the same time."

In addition to the IT Fund, a significant portion of the Democratic spending package could go toward IT companies, said sources familiar with the proposal. For example, approximately $1.7 billion is earmarked for agencies that deal with homeland defense, and some of that will almost certainly be used for upgrading technology systems.