Bush increases DHS budget 7%
President Bush on Monday asked Congress to hike funding for the Department of Homeland Security by 6.8 percent to $50.5 billion in fiscal year 2009.
The discretionary portion of the budget, not including money from mandatory fees and agency trust funds, is up 8 percent from enacted 2008 levels to $40.7 billion.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection would receive an 18 percent increase in funding from 2008 levels to $10.9 billion. The Transportation Security Administration is slated for a 4 percent increase to $7.1 billion.
CBP’s budget includes $2.27 billion for inspections and trade facilitation duties at ports of entry, a $264 million increase. The funding would help raise the number of full-time employees devoted to the traditional trade and border security mission by 1,242 to 18,043. Money for computer modernization efforts is set at $511 million, up $34.7 million from the fiscal 2008 appropriated amount. The Automated Commercial Environment is slated to receive $317 million, subject to a detailed accounting of the program’s progress to Congress.
The agency seeks $35.5 million to staff, operate and maintain radiation portal monitors. Of that amount, $27.3 million will be used to hire 238 officers, 20 scientists, 25 IT specialists and 12 support personnel to implement the deployment of RPMs at seaports.
The budget has directed $10 million to replace small-scale non-intrusive inspection equipment that is nearing obsolescence, as well as to operate and maintain the machines. CBP intelligence programs would be funded with $24 million.
The DHS budget request includes $210 million for port security grants, the same amount in the 2008 budget. Congressional Democrats have repeatedly complained that the Bush administration has underfunded the program and last year were able to increase the amount to $400 million for fiscal 2008. The SAFE Port Act of 2006 also authorizes the program to receive $400 million.
The administration requested nearly $100 million for air cargo security inspectors, canine teams and the Certified Shipper Program to achieve 100-percent screening of air cargo on passenger aircraft in 2010.
Another $37 million would go for surface transportation security, including funding for nearly 100 inspectors to conduct risk assessments in mass transit and rail systems.
The White House said it needs $564 million (up 16 percent, or $79 million) for the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, including $334.2 million for research and development programs to identifying and deploy promising nuclear detection technologies, such as Advanced Spectroscopic Portal monitors for checking cargo containers. The program has been delayed to allow for additional testing after Congress charged that the systems were being rushed out despite evidence they were not accurate enough to distinguish between benign and dangerous sources of radiation. The radiation portal monitor program accounts for almost half the budget at $157 million, up from $67.7 million appropriated for this year. DNDO will continue to deploy first generation radiation portal monitors to reach the goal of monitoring 100 percent of incoming cargo containers at seaports (current capability is now stated at roughly 97 percent) and at the northern border (now at 91 percent).
DHS said it will seek $13 million for a program begun last year that forces chemical plants to meet minimum-security standards. The money will be used to assess vulnerability, review security plans submitted by plants, conduct inspections and enforce compliance.
President Bush sought an additional $200 million to $900 million for the Coast Guard’s Deepwater program to modernize its aging fleet of vessels and aircraft. Another $20 million in new funding is directed for marine inspectors to ensure compliance with vessel safety and security standards and keep pace with the growth in maritime commerce.
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative would be funded at $140 million under Bush’s plan, an increase of $107 million. Congress delayed the requirement for a passport or other federal identity card for international travelers at the land border until June 2009. Until then U.S. and Canadian citizens can use any form of government-issued ID and proof of citizenship. The money would be used to implement the full rollout of the program to land and sea ports of entry.
A new expense item is the first Quadrennial Homeland Security Review, $1.65 million, to be conducted every four years to comprehensively examine programs, assets, budget policies and authorities and recommend long-term strategy and priorities. The development is an outgrowth of calls from outsiders to reform management of the department. ' Eric Kulisch