I’ve now read through the key budget request documents for the Department of Homeland Security this morning. This post, on the homeland security grant programs, is the first of several that I’ll make today and tomorrow on the budget request.
Homeland Security Grant Programs
Perhaps the biggest “loser” is funding for state and local homeland security grants – in particular grant funding that is not tied to risk. The budget request proposes $2.46 billion for state and local grants for FY 2007, a 2% decline from FY 2006 ($2.50 billion), which itself was a funding level substantially reduced from previous years. Within the proposed total, DHS would move all but $205 million outside of the category of “formula-based grants,” keeping only Emergency Management Performance Grants and Citizen Corps in this category. The total includes $838 million for the Urban Area Security Initiative grants and $633 million for grants that would replace the State Homeland Security Grant Program (SHSGP) and the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program (LETPP) – but moves them outside of the funding formula requirements of Sec. 1014 of the Patriot Act, making them risk-based and setting state minimums at a new, lower level of 0.25% (down from 0.75%).
It also proposes spending $600m for a general grant program for “Targeted Infrastructure Protection” (TIP) rather than sector-specific programs for ports, transit, etc. And it proposes cutting Firefighter Assistance Grants from $655m to $293m next year.
DHS also proposes in the budget request that future grant applications will be required to include a plan for interoperable communications at the metropolitan or regional level.
Many of these proposals are likely to face an icy reaction from many members of Congress. Some of them (such as TIP) are exact repeats of proposals that were shot down in the last two years by Congress during the appropriations process. And the proposal to decrease state minimums will likely face strong resistance in the Senate, where smaller states have greater relative power. Some members of Congress will probably argue that this new proposal circumvents the legal requirements of Sec. 1014 of the Patriot Act.
Nevertheless, I think this is exactly what DHS should be doing, in terms of the mix of funds. I wholeheartedly endorse any proposal that shifts funding toward programs that use risk-based criteria, and I’m glad to see DHS continue to argue that funding should move in this direction.
I’m concerned, however, about the overall level of funding, and whether it effectively addresses the many unmet needs at the state and local level and in areas such as port security. One rationale for the decrease in funds from FY 2005 to FY 2006 was the fact that billions of dollars of unspent grant funds had accumulated in the treasury. Is this still the case? If the flow of funds has improved, then that would be a reason to start to increase funds for these grant programs again, rather than treating these lower levels as a new baseline.