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American Shipper

DHS budget includes plans for regions, screening and policy coordination

DHS budget includes plans for regions, screening and policy coordination

   The Bush administration released its proposed budget for fiscal year 2006, which includes $41.1 billion for the Department of Homeland Security, of which $27.3 billion goes to homeland security efforts.

   The DHS budget request is 7 percent higher than actual 2005 appropriations, excluding health program Project BioShield. DHS agencies receiving the biggest increases would be Immigration and Customs Enforcement, up 13.5 percent, and the Coast Guard, up more than 9 percent. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been beset by financial problems since the merger of border security agencies within DHS two years ago.

   The DHS budget includes a proposal to consolidate screening programs for cargo and people in the Office of Screening Coordination and Operations, within the Border and Transportation Security directorate. The office is designed to coordinate separate identification and tracking efforts of Customs and Border, Protection (CBP), the Transportation Security Administration and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

   The office will coordinate screening for Free and Secure Trade Lanes (CBP program for pre-certified shippers and truckers to get automated clearance at land ports); TSA background checks for truck drivers hauling hazardous materials; TSA background checks and management of the Transportation Worker Identification Card program for controlling access to secure areas of ports and other transportation facilities; the U.S.-VISIT program for tracking visitors and immigrants; Secure Flight (TSA program for matching airline passengers with terrorist watch lists; NEXUS (a CBP program designed to simplify crossing the border to and from Canada for pre-approved, low-risk travelers) and the related Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI) program.

   DHS seeks $49.9 million to establish a regional management structure for DHS with offices around the country to integrate support functions for agency operations in the field. The import/export community has expressed reservations about whether such a plan would undermine the authority of CBP headquarters, and lead to regional differences in how customs and security regulations are enforced.

   The Container Security Initiative is budgeted for $138.8 million, an increase of $5.4 million over the fiscal 2005 level. CBP’s goal is to expand the cargo pre-screening program in 2006 to ports in Egypt, Chile, India, the Philippines, Venezuela, the Bahamas and Honduras.

   CBP’s National Targeting Center and information collection systems are to receive $28.3 million, an increase of $5.4 million.

   The budget proposes increasing funds for the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism supply chain security program by $8.2 million to $54.3 million, with much of the increase going to conduct validations of companies to make sure they are following agreed upon guidelines.

   The budget includes $227 million to establish a Domestic Nuclear Detection Office to develop technologies to detect and report illegal import, assemble, or transport of nuclear devices, or fissile or radiological material. The department has made 100 percent radiological screening of inbound containers a priority and is installing radiation portal monitors at most sea and land ports. The budget includes $125 million to purchase more of these drive-by devices. DHS also wants to develop the next-generation technology that can more accurately and quickly detect the presence of radioactive material.

   The budget envisions $600 million in grants to protect critical infrastructure such as ports, railways and energy facilities.

   The Science and Technology directorate would receive $127 million and consolidate more research efforts in the department.

   Funding of $49 million is requested for counter-measures to prevent shoulder-fired missiles from shooting down commercial airliners.

   Responding to criticism that the department lacks enough policy direction at the highest levels, DHS officials also said they plan to create an Office of Policy Planning and International Affairs.

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