Monday, September 11, 2006

A Few Reflections on the Impact of 9/11

RFID Law Journal
Newsletter No. 9
September 11, 2006

A confluence of factors contributed to the substantial growth of the federal government’s IT budget from $40 billion in FY 2001 to $63.8 billion (the Bush administration’s projection) for FY 2007. While not the sole factor driving the expansion of federal IT budgets, the disruptive events of September 11th , including the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon, managed to significantly influence U.S. policy, with a reprioritization of the Administration’s agenda toward homeland security and defense. Faced with googlistic asset and people tracking challenges, the U.S. government policymakers have increasingly turned to automation tools to meet their policy objectives.

U.S. policymakers are undeniably grappling with significant budgetary issues given their sizeable troop commitments for the War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the large manpower commitments for domestic security (e.g., the TSA airport screeners). Policymakers on both sides of the aisle understand that in order to sustain the War on Terror, improve homeland security and maintain other federal programs, the federal government must more effectively leverage the U.S.’s technological prowess. In other words, “manpower” has become a key policy driver for the DoD, the DHS and other governmental agencies. In such a world, those government contractors who can deliver automation tools/systems enabling the government to more effectively leverage its workforce will be significantly better positioned to compete for government projects.

Auto identification technologies, including RFID, 2D-Bar Coding and Biometrics, offer significant advantages to large institutions (such as governments) in terms of their capabilities for efficiently tracking assets and people. Simply put, auto identification is a manpower-enabler. The Bush Administration recognizes the importance of RFID deployment to achieve its own policy objectives. Indeed, in December, 2004, the Bush Administration announced (through GSA issued Bulletin FMR B-7 (Radio Frequency Identification)) its policy which directed all U.S. federal agency heads to review their processes and consider strategies for the future use of RFID technologies with a view toward improving personal property management, asset visibility, and maintenance practices and facilitating supply chain management improvement. In light of this policy directive, several federal agencies have been proactively considering, piloting and/or deploying RFID.

Neither the threat of terrorism nor the global war against terrorists is going away anytime soon. With a burgeoning budget deficit, it will become increasingly more difficult to throw ‘manpower’ at these problems (e.g., hire an endless number of TSA screeners). As a result, it is imperative that the federal government leverage its IT federal dollars as effectively as possible. Given the supply chain and asset tracking efficiencies derived from auto identification technology, it would seem likely that in view of the current policy and geopolitical environment, auto ID technologies would enjoy substantial growth in the coming years.

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