2008 spending bill includes $37.5 billion for DHS
The U.S. House of Representatives wrapped up business for the year on Wednesday by sending President Bush a $555 billion omnibus spending bill for fiscal year 2008 that covers the Department of Homeland Security and 11 other departments. It also includes $70 billion in Iraq war funding.
Congress gave DHS $37.55 billion, including $2.7 billion in emergency funds for border security. That is up from $33.7 billion enacted last year and President Bush’s request for $34.3 billion.
Customs and Border Protection will receive $9.4 billion, $657 million above the President’s request. The funding includes $40 million for a model ports of entry program, and $22 million for 200 more officers at border checkpoints.
The Transportation Security Administration funding includes $694 million to implement container and aviation and security mandates in the 9/11 Implementation Act of 2007 such as increased cargo screening on passenger aircraft, expanded intermodal response teams, and more pilot projects for the Transportation Worker Identification Credential.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., inserted $33 million in the bill to improve the Derby Line, Vt., port of entry, a busy cargo crossing between Canada and New England. The money would be used to replace the outdated existing checkpoint with a larger, modern facility. The Vermont delegation previously secured $6.5 million for the state to upgrade roads on Interstate 91 leading to the port of entry to handle higher traffic volumes.
Congress also cut the White House’s budget for the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office by $77 million to $485 million, $131 below the 2007 outlay. Lawmakers reduced funding to show displeasure with procurement and certification problems for new technology, such as the Advanced Spectroscopic Portal Monitors for detecting radiation in ocean containers and trailers.
The bill also reduces by $137 million the president’s request for the troubled Deepwater cutter and aircraft modernization program for the Coast Guard. Another $300 million is withheld pending the submission of detailed management and expenditure plans.
Policy directives in the bill include giving states the power to apply security rules for chemical facilities when they are stricter than federal government standards, unless there is a conflict.
The bill also extends the deadline for implementing the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative until June 1, 2009. DHS had previously planned to require U.S. and Canadian citizens to present a passport or other travel document, or a government-issued ID like a drivers license by Jan. 31, 2008 in order to enter the country. During the summer, the rules were to be tightened to require only a passport or trusted traveler card for those who have undergone a pre-background check. The delay is an effort to give more time to figure out document requirements. Truckers and other frequent travelers across the northern border have complained that the passport requirement creates additional hassles to procure the document, and will lead to long lines at the border without appropriate technology in place to automatically read identity documents. ' Eric Kulisch