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US gooses economy with IT billions

Grab a bucket and get in line

The $787bn American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), signed Tuesday by US president Barack Obama, contains significant chunks of cash targeted towards IT spending.

Some of the line items are relatively straightforward, such as over $1bn for IT upgrades at the Social Security Administration, State Department, Department of Veterans Affairs, and Farm Service Agency.

Other price tags are less precise, such as $17.6bn for "Incentives for the use of health information technology." The term "incentives" is used in the ARRA to cover everything from "the infrastructure necessary within different agencies of the Department of Health and Human Services to support the electronic use and exchange of health information," which appears to be clearly IT spending, to "dissemination of information on best practices," which sounds more like a boon to management consultants.

Other direct IT-spending areas include:

  • $2bn for IT purchases and upgrades for community health centers
  • $250m for help to states to develop student-data tracking systems
  • $50m to upgrade the "IT security" of the Department of Health and Human Services
  • $20m for IT upgrades for Immigration and Customs Enforcement systems

Spending that will have a strong IT component includes:

  • $4.5bn to develop a new energy grid and train its managers
  • $4.35bn for expanding wireless and broadband coverage, including upgrading and establishing public computer centers
  • $4.2bn for upgrading Department of Defense facilities, including DoD medical facilities, in the US and its territories
  • $2.5bn spread over a number of programs to develop "efficient" and "renewable" energy systems
  • $2bn for the manufacturing of "advanced battery systems"
  • $2bn for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology
  • $650m for school computers and science labs
  • $580m for the National Institute of Standards to upgrade its research facilities and provide grants to small businesses
  • $140m for US Geological Survey technology upgrades

In addition to these fine-grained expenditures, there are more IT billions tucked away in other nooks and crannies of the 1,073-page bill, plus over $288bn in personal and business tax cuts. ®

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