Maritime programs take hit in Æ11 budget
One of the big losers in President Barack Obama's $3.8 trillion budget proposal for 2011, unveiled Monday, is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which would experience a 10 percent cut from last year's appropriation levels for its civil works program that includes deep-draft maintenance of harbors.
Dredging would also be negatively impacted by a proposal to withdraw $767 million from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, which represents a 4 percent reduction from the 2010 approved amount. Money for the fund comes from a value-added tax on cargo entering a port, and industry critics complain the government annually holds back half the available money instead of spending it to improve navigable waterways.
A winner in the budget sweepstakes is the Commerce Department's International Trade Administration, which would receive a 20 percent increase to $534 million to promote exports, help enforce free trade agreements and improve the competitiveness of U.S. firms.
The administration also recommended a 25 percent reduction in the authorized level for the Department of Homeland Security's Port Security Grant program, which allocates money to marine terminals and other waterfront interests to help cover purchases, repair and maintenance of security equipment such as physical barriers, lighting, surveillance systems and other technology. Grants can also be used for training personnel and to implement the Transportation Worker Security Credential, a federal access control card.
Last year, Congress provided $400 million for port security grants plus an additional $150 million in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The 2011 White House budget calls for $300 million in port security grants.
The budget request also contained no funding for America's Marine Highway Program — also known as short-sea shipping on coastal routes to move domestic cargo — which Congress authorized last year and the administration supported.
The American Association of Port Authorities said it was 'greatly disappointed' by the President's budget. 'Our nation’s economic health and security depend largely on how well we can ensure deep-draft shipping access to our seaports in order to support exports and protect our ports against terrorism,” AAPA President Kurt Nagle said in a statement. “While this year’s budget request for seaport-related programs is below what we had envisioned, we hope that the administration and Congress will recognize and agree to fund them at the levels required.”
The budget request provides $56.3 billion for the Department of Homeland Security, up $1 billion from what Congress appropriated in fiscal year 2010. Customs and Border Protection would receive $11.2 billion, including an additional $25 million to support stepped up enforcement of intellectual property rights violations. Another $5 million in new spending would go to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for its National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, which brings government agencies together to disrupt criminal organizations on the Internet and combat counterfeiters.
CBP has the largest share of the DHS budget, 20 percent, followed by the U.S. Coast Guard at 18 percent and the Transportation Security Administration at 14 percent. But CBP would take a 2 percent hit, $269.3 million, compared to its 2010 appropriation if Congress doesn't adjust the amount.
The TSA budget would increase 7 percent to $8.2 billion, reflecting the administration's priority in adding advance passenger screening technology and otherwise tightening aviation security.
The Coast Guard's budget would remain flat at $10.1 billion, including $1.4 billion for a fleet and aircraft recapitalization program.
The Domestic Nuclear Detection Office would experience a funding reduction of 20 percent, or $77 million, under the president's plan.
Within CBP's budget, the White House proposes an increase of $168 million to $2.9 billion, and 806 personnel for inspections and trade facilitation at ports of entry. The Automated Commercial Environment, plagued by delays, would have funding cut by $75 million to $347.6 million from the 2010 enacted level.
The administration did not propose any increase in customs, immigration or agriculture inspection fees.
Other highlights in the DHS budget that are of interest to freight interests are:
' An increase of $71 million and 523 positions for explosive detection canine teams.
' $41 million more for radiological and nuclear detection systems such as those used at ports to check cargo containers.
' $310.4 million to bump salary and benefits from the GS-11 to GS-12 level for frontline CBP officers and agriculture specialists.
' $44.8 million to hire 318 new CBP field officers and 71 support personnel. The administration said the proposed funding is necessary to offset an 8 percent decrease in revenues from inspection user fees resulting from the severe downturn in trade.
' $10 million for 103 new CBP intelligence analysts.
' $8 million for the Science and Technology Directorate's Safe Container (SAFECON) and Time Recorded Ubiquitous Sensor Technology (TRUST) programs to develop cargo scanning technologies that can detect weapons of mass destruction, explosives, contraband and human cargo.
The White House requests $78.8 billion to operate the Department of Transportation, up from the $77 billion enacted for fiscal year 2010. New funding includes $4 billion to create a national Infrastructure Innovation and Finance Fund to invest in projects of regional or national significance and attract private capital. The White House also provides $1.14 billion, a 30 percent increase, for the Federal Aviation Administration's Next Generation Air Transportation System to improve air traffic control and $1 billion for high-speed passenger rail.
The administration recommends extending the current surface transportation authorization until March 2011 while it works with Congress to reform programs and develop a long-term financing plan for infrastructure and safety programs.
Congress has the final say in budget matters and could make significant changes to the White House proposal. ' Eric Kulisch