Thursday, April 03, 2008

Rolling in the dough

The 2008-2009 Report on Plans and Priorities documents were released on 1 April, and they show that CSE is awash in money.

According to DND's RPP, CSE's fiscal year 2008-09 budget is $242.8 million. That's down from the $267.6 million spent in fiscal year 2007-08, but it's more than $28 million higher than the amount originally budgeted for that year. (The reason it looks like a drop is that CSE got to spend almost $53 million more than originally budgeted last year.) This higher level of spending is projected to continue over at least the next two years as well.

Part of the reason for the big spending is that the Mid-Term Accommodations Project (MTAP) is much bigger than I had thought. According to this table, Phase 1 of the project—there's more than one phase?—is expected to cost just over $70 million. The Mid-Term Accommodations Project page in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Registry describes the project as a four-storey 6000-square-metre building, but I find it hard to believe that it's going to take all that money to build 6000 square metres of office space, even allowing for it being high-security office space.

The six-storey annex to the Sir Leonard Tilley building built in the 1989–1992 period—a pretty secure office space itself, I'm guessing—cost about $35 million, or about $50 million in today's dollars, and it has just over twice as much floorspace. Construction costs may have risen faster than inflation in the interim, but if the new national archives building soon to be built is any guide $70 million should still be good for 13–14,000 square metres of building. It looks to me like more construction is on the way, with the total probably sufficient to accommodate something like 500–600 personnel. And that's just phase 1.

[Then again, maybe not. See More on CSE's new building.]

And, as they say in the game shows, that's not all! Last year's extra spending included $14.5 million in salary and personnel costs, primarily related to retention pay, "salary pressures", and the Support to Deployed Operations Account (which presumably refers to CSE employees in Afghanistan); $10.7 million in extra operating and maintenance spending; and $27.7 million for capital spending, of which the MTAP accounted for only $841,000. Large amounts of extra spending also appear in the projections for this fiscal year and the two following years, roughly $22 million in extra O&M spending and over $70 million in capital spending. (Interestingly, however, projected salary and personnel spending is shown falling back almost to previous years' levels, raising the question of how Afghanistan, "salary pressures", etc. will be dealt with in coming years. I'm guessing those numbers will also rise.)

Roughly $60 million of the added capital spending and an unknown portion of the added O&M spending is accounted for by the MTAP spending scheduled to take place during those years, but we're still left with at least $10 million in newly added capital spending plus an unknown amount of additional O&M spending.

All told, thus, we're looking at new spending since the FY 2007-08 budget of $14.5 million in salary and personnel costs, with more probably coming; roughly $33 million in O&M, some of which is for MTAP Phase 1; $70 million in capital spending for MTAP Phase 1; and an additional $37 million in unidentified capital spending in excess of the previously projected spending. Grand total: more than $150 million in extra money for CSE.

Where does the extra $43 million promised to CSE in the February budget (blogged here) fit in? Presumably that money falls somewhere into the sums mentioned above. The budget documents provided the fairly unhelpful explanation that the $43 million would be provided over the next two years in order for CSE to make "necessary investments to keep pace with rapid technological advancements in information and communication technologies." It's hard to know what that means, but it doesn't sound much like a building project, especially one with a $70 million plus budget spread over at least 5 years. Since governments tend not to be fussy about the ethics of announcing previous expenditures as new spending, I'm guessing the budget's $43 million included the $27 million in capital spending just disbursed, plus something like $7 million in additional capital spending over this year and next and another $9 million or so in O&M spending over the same period. That total could and quite possibly does involve quite a few separate technology purchases. I wouldn't be at all surprised, however, if one of those projects turned out to be a nice, tasty latest-generation Cray supercomputer.

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