Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

February 16, 2006

Congress says TSA’s budget request is DOA

Filed under: Aviation Security,Budgets and Spending,Congress and HLS — by Christian Beckner on February 16, 2006

Reuters reports on a hearing held today by the Subcommittee on Homeland Security of the House Appropriations Committee to look at TSA’s budget request for FY 2007. The story supports what I wrote in my budget analysis for the TSA last week: that the idea of increasing airline fees would be dead on arrival when it reached Congress.

From the story:

Kentucky Rep. Harold Rogers, chairman of the homeland security appropriations subcommittee on transportation, told Transportation Security Administration chief Kip Hawley that the proposal amounts to a tax that Republicans cannot accept.

Rogers blasted White House budget planners and the Homeland Security Department for failing to offer alternatives to pay for passenger and bag screening operations.

Lawmakers soundly rejected a similar fee hike proposal last year.

“The next time you come up here proposing something like this, just know that it is going to be thrown back in your face,” Rogers told Hawley.

Rogers also said Hawley had to find at least $1.3 billion in savings in the proposed budget to offset the loss of revenue from the security fee increase.

“We’re cutting the budget to make up the difference,” Rogers said. “Where shall we cut?”

I don’t think it’d be possible to cut $1.3 billion from TSA’s budget without severely harming aviation security. TSA’s budget has been slowly squeezed over the last few years, and it’d be difficult to cut $300-$400m, let alone $1.3 billion.

So if Congress is serious about blocking this, then what are the options? One would be to increase the total size of the budget request for DHS to offset the lack of new fee revenue, but that’s difficult in this budget-cutting environment. Another would be to cut back on the “new” items in the FY 2007 budget request, which are concentrated on the immigration and border security mission – but again, Congress has been strongly supportive of spending more money on the borders, so I don’t see any sentiment to reduce these new requests.

A third option is the one that would be easiest politically, but probably the most damaging to homeland security. Congress could decide to chip away funds from key DHS activities that are less sexy than border security and don’t have strong political constituencies, but are at the core of our efforts to enhance homeland security. Potential targets would be the budgets and programs for intelligence, infrastructure protection, science and technology, port and cargo security, and the funds for DHS headquarters. If DHS is going to become a leading-edge and proactive department in the coming years, these are some of the key areas where capacity still needs to be built.

After reading this story, I’m starting to think that it’s going to be a much more contentious process this year to pass the homeland security budget than in years past. From FY 2004 to FY 2006, there weren’t really any difficult choices that needed to be made between competing priorities. As a result, the last few DHS appropriations bills have been signed more or less on time, close to the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. That’s not true this year. When you strip out the proposed TSA fee increases, the DHS budget request is basically flat from FY 2006. There definitely won’t be any free lunch between competing priorities in trying to pass the DHS budget this year.

For more information, see subcommittee chairman Hal Rogers’ opening statement for the hearing and TSA Administrator Kip Hawley’s prepared testimony for a different committee – House Homeland Security – today.

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3 Comments »

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Comment by William R. Cumming

February 17, 2006 @ 11:08 am

The best and wisest decision (and perhaps the only really important decision budget-wise)made by Congress since 9/11 was to make the DHS budget a separate appropriation act and get it based annually. It is the glue that made DHS somewhat operative. Internal diversion of funds (reprogramming formal and informal) within DHS did have major consequences witness Hurricane Katrina activity. E.G. the effective elimination of 600 FTE positions in FEMA in Sept. 2004. There is still no real match of FTE and budget against legal authority authorizing programs, functions, activities within DHS. It is almost impossible to review each appropriations act against prior years. Even more difficult to review this budget submission (FY 2007) against prior years. One significant rationalization could occur if budget function codes (e.g. National Defense -050 or State and Local Assistance- 045) could be modified and a wholly new budget code for homeland security and homeland defense be created. Then we could see the real tradeoffs between civil/military issues and within the category. There is no comprehensive listing of homeland security programs/functions/activities within the civil agencies or within homeland defense in DOD. Smoke and mirrors rule the day.
The excate FTE and appropriations assigned as a baseline for large-scale domestic response should be clearly identified as a line item in both DOD and civil agency budgets and their appropriation acts. Also all know Events of National Significance should be pre-funded in advance or other programs/functions/activities are not impacted. FEMA e.g.never was allowed by OMB to submit a budget for its support of Olympics, national conventions, G-8 conferences. This impacted across the agency on both staff diversions and funding for other priority activities.

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Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » Blog Archive » Chertoff fights for aviation security fees

February 27, 2006 @ 12:37 am

[...] In a USA Today story, Sec. Chertoff responds to suggestions in Congress that the proposed TSA fee increases are unacceptable: Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says the nation’s aviation system remains “the No. 1 target” for terrorists, and he warns that his agency may have to cut spending on security at airports if Congress rejects a fee increase for some passengers. [...]

Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » DHS approps moves forward in the Senate

June 27, 2006 @ 5:49 pm

[...] The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security moved forward on FY 2007 funding for the Department of Homeland Security today, as detailed in this press release. At first impression, it looks like the infrastructure protection and science & technology accounts are the big losers in the Senate’s version of the budget – a potential solution to the TSA fee issue that I described in Febuary as the “easiest politically, but probably the most damaging to homeland security.” [...]

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