Senate Stalls Emergency Funding

WASHINGTON (04/06/2000) - An emergency spending bill that included nearly $100 million in new funding for information technology has stalled - and possibly died - in the U.S. Senate. The $13 billion bill was passed last week by the U.S. House of Representatives.

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, a Republican from Mississippi, refused Tuesday to schedule a vote on the bill, which he called "bloated." Lott said through a spokesman that he didn't see any need to pass it on an "emergency" basis, as the House did March 29.

Among the information technology projects included in the bill:

* $45 million more in spending on "urgent cybersecurity needs" at three nuclear weapons laboratories. The extra money would raise spending to $49 million this year. The Energy Department, which runs the labs, is under fire for lax computer security that may have let a scientist transfer nuclear secrets to China.

* $38.5 million to buy new computer equipment for the Agriculture Department's Farm Service Agency county agriculture offices. Swamped with requests for aid from farmers hit by natural disasters and low prices, the offices "are hobbled by severely outdated computer systems," according to the Office of Management and Budget.

* $26.6 million of unspent Year 2000 money at the Transportation Department would have been transferred to other, unspecified accounts within DOT.

* $2.25 billion in a multiyear Year 2000 emergency fund would have been trimmed to $2 billion, with $5.5 million of it to be transferred to Congress.

* The Office of Management and Budget requested $9 million "to jump-start" several counter-cyberterrorism programs planned for 2001. The House did not oblige, but OMB officials had hoped the Senate would.

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