Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

June 30, 2006

Senate approps bill chops nuclear detection budget

Filed under: Budgets and Spending,Radiological & Nuclear Threats — by Christian Beckner on June 30, 2006

The Senate Appropriations Committee moved the DHS FY 2007 appropriations bill out of the full committee today; this press release summarizes their version of the legislation.

At the beginning of the budget season, I predicted that this would be a painful budget season for DHS. The Department’s decision to propose a fee increase for TSA that they knew would be dead-on-arrival created a $1.2 billion hole in the middle of the budget; a hole that both the House and the Senate appropriations committees have struggled to fill. The new operational costs created by the border funding (e.g. the National Guard deployment) in the FY 2006 supplemental made this an even deeper hole.

As a natural result, both versions of the bill propose funding decisions that would be real setbacks to U.S. homeland security, in a number of different areas. The programs that were cut or not fully funded are generally newer programs; it’s much easier to scale back new programs than to propose cuts to programs that have existing workforces and established cost structures. But the result of this is that some of the most important and urgent DHS missions are likely to be underfunded this year, in areas like infrastructure protection, preparedness, and science & technology.

Take the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, responsible for developing a national architecture to detect and prevent the use of nuclear or radiological weapons on U.S. soil. By all accounts the DNDO has been doing a solid job in its first 17 months of existence. The DHS budget request proposed $536 million for the DNDO in FY 2007. The House bill cuts this funding level to $500 million, and the Senate bill scales it to $442.5 million – all out of the DNDO’s R&D budget.

Preventing a nuclear attack on U.S. soil is, for my money, far and away the most important mission of the Department of Homeland Security. And the technologies to detect radiological and nuclear materials are by all accounts inadequate today. Given these realities, how can it be a good idea to roll back the DNDO’s R&D budget by $93 million (nearly one-third of the total)? The security return-on-investment from the DNDO is potentially enormous. If anything, I’d suggest spending more. A comparison of its value to U.S. national security with many big ticket items in the DOD’s procurement budget (for example, the Air Force’s F-22A Raptor at $361 million per plane) raises profound questions about whether we are truly serious about stopping mass casualty terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

June 30, 2006 @ 4:14 am

We are going to have the first solid evidence this year that the failure to have new homeland security functional budget codes across the federal budget is going to really hurt homeland security. For example, the 050 account national defense used to have a civil defense portion. The 045 state and local assistance never really had any preparedness money in it even after the civil defense program was abolished. The 800 function – General Government should have long ago contained the money for COOP and COG! Neither the Executive Branch nor the Congress is serious yet about the Homeland Security function. After this years budget is adopted and excluding disaster outlays (which should not be excluded) almost 45% of the DHS budget will have nothing to do with Homeland Defense. But then probably 50% of the DOD budget does not relate to National Defense. The funding and operations of the USACE should probably be moved under DHS except for specific and directly related operations related to war fighting after certification that that they are directly related by the SECDEF. The rest is divided between civilian pork and structural mitigation of flood and natural disasters. Only time will tell which is which when we again discover mother nature does NOT grant variances to USACOE stupidity or anyone elses. The Administration continues to ignore mandatory statutory reporting to Congress on antiterrorism and counterterrorism mandated in the late 90\’s. Also the $10-15B wasted by DHS on destruction of legacy IT systems and failure to establish effective and efficient new ones is really beginning to hurt performance. The 5 year reviews post 9/11 on accomplishments for the homeland security/homeland defense programs, functions and activities is not going to be pretty.

Comment by Chris Bray

July 3, 2006 @ 12:45 pm

$96 million is, what, a few hours of operations in Iraq? The sense of priorities is consistently astonishing.

Comment by Caroleen Williams

July 3, 2006 @ 12:56 pm

Interesting analysis…

Comment by J.

July 6, 2006 @ 1:14 pm

I have to say I\’m not surprised. History provides the precedent. During the early Cold War, RAND had good analyses that showed that millions of people would be saved if the nation invested in a national shelter program in the event of a Soviet nuclear attack. Congress yawned and funded it at a fraction of the few billion required. Many political decision makers felt that it would be more prudent to fund the intercepters and missile launchers – offensive functions – than shelters and supplies – defensive measures.

Here we go again.

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