I’ve been meaning to write about the final DHS appropriations bill for FY 2007 for the last couple of weeks, but it’s taken me a while to digest the 200-page final conference report. There are a number of important provisions in the bill that are worthy of close examination, such as the chemical security language, the extension of the deadline to implement the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, and the bill language that reorganizes FEMA and creates a new Office of Emergency Communications to coordinate DHS activities in this area such as SAFECOM and the Integrated Wireless Network (IWN) program.
Also interspersed amid the final bill and conference report are a number of provisions that exude the faint smell of bacon. Compared to other bills, DHS appropriations remains fairly clean in terms of pork barrel spending and other special interest language. But it’s a slippery slope from a clean bill to a dirty one, and that’s why it’s important to be vigilant about the inclusion of pork barrel language in DHS appropriations. I’ve identified the following pork barrel items in the final bill:
Page 31: Sec. 534 of the bill says that “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall consider the Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission in Mississippi eligible under the Federal Emergency Management Agency Public Assistance Program for all costs incurred for dredging from navigation channel in Little Lake, Louisiana, sediment deposited as a result of Hurricane George in 1998.” This might be an appropriate use of FEMA funds, but professionals at FEMA should decide this, not members of Congress.
Page 32: Sec. 541 of the bill says “Notwithstanding the requirements of section (404)(b)(2)(B) of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, the Army Corps of Engineers may use Lot 19, Block 1 of the Meadowview Acres Addition and Lot 8 ,Block 5 of the Meadowview Acres Addition in Augusta, Kansas for building portions of the flood-control levee.” For some context on this matter, see this FEMA document from 1999. I’m not sure what the exact dispute is, but this section seems like unnecessary congressional micromanagement to me. Augusta is located in the district of House Appropriator Todd Tiahrt.
Page 32: Sec. 542 of the bill says “Notwithstanding any time limitation established for a grant awarded under title I, chapter 6, Public Law 106-31, in the item relating to Federal Emergency Management Agency – Disaster Assistance for Unmet Needs, the City of Cuero, Texas, may use funds received under such grant programs until September 30, 2007.” Cuero had floods in 1998, 2002, and 2004, which they’re evidently they’re still spending disaster relief money from that event. Again, if they deserve the money consistent with FEMA regulations then that’s fine, but I don’t see the rationale for congressional intervention here.
Page 53: Sec. 511 of Title V of the bill requires that “Each federal agency and department with critical infrastructure responsibilities under Homeland Security Presidential Directive 7, or any successor to such directive, shall establish a formal relationship, including an agreement regarding information sharing, between the elements of such agency or department and the National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center, through the Department.” The NISAC is a center at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico (the home state of Senate Appropriator Pete Domenici) that does simulation and modeling work on homeland security issues; the center gained notoriety following their report prior to Hurricane Katrina that accurately predicted its consequences (a report that I’d still like to see, btw.) The NISAC has done solid work, from every that I’ve heard, but this mandate for all federal agencies with CIP responsibilities to work with them seems overly aggressive, and feels like a strong-armed attempt to round up new work for the Center.
Page 121-22: The manager’s statement contains a section entitled “National Center for Critical Information Processing and Storage (NCCIPS), which includes $53 million of funding in FY 2007 for the migration of key DHS data centers to a primary facility at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi (the home state of Senate Appropriations chairman Thad Cochran) and a secondary facility at a site to be determined. While it makes sense to have backup data centers for mission-critical DHS capabilities, the site selection on this program should have been “fair and open” for both sites, not just the secondary one. Stennis suffered roof and water damage during Hurricane Katrina – is it really the best place for a back-up site for critical IT assets?
This section of the bill also prohibits the transfer of data center assets from the Coast Guard’s Operations Systems Center in Martinsburg, West Virginia – the home state of Senate Appropriations ranking member Robert Byrd.
Page 134: This page notes that “the conferees direct ICE to submit a report on the costs and need for establishing sub-offices in Colorado Springs and Greeley, Colorado.” This Denver Post story notes that Senate Appropriations Committee member Wayne Allard attached this item. It should be up to professionals at ICE to determine the agency’s allocations of resources by geography, and not amendments of this ilk.
Page 156: The section on the “National Domestic Preparedness Consortium” does not mention any explicit earmarks, but as I noted last week, DHS seems to think that a large share of this money is earmarked for “New Mexico Technology.”
Page 157: The “Rural Domestic Preparedness Consortium” received $12 million in the final bill. Money in this program has been allocated disproportionately in the past to universities in the state of Kentucky, home to House Appropriations Subcommitee Chairman Hal Rogers. This program seems unnecessarily duplicative of other programs.
Page 159: The conferees note that they “support the budget request for the Protective Security Analysis Center.” This is a program at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, touted by House Appropriations Committee member Zach Wamp as a project that will “use information about the thousands of manufacturing plants, monuments, bridges, schools and other structures and facilities in our country to help Department of Homeland Security officials assess the risk that any of them will be destroyed or damaged by either natural or man-made hazards.” There are a lot of other projects at DHS that serve this purpose, and this isn’t something that has been requested by DHS or openly debated in Congress. Therefore it smells suspicious to me.
Page 169-170: The section here on “New Technologies” contains an odd list of issues that the appropriators recommend that DHS S&T research, including “singlet oxygen generating chemical and enzymatic systems” and “photonic and microsystem technologies for high-threat problem solving.” These items seems like they are taken from outside parties’ R&D wishlists, and not part of a coherent Congressional or DHS agenda for homeland security R&D.
Altogether, the programs listed represent less than 0.5% of total spending by the Department of Homeland Security. The vast majority of DHS spending is not tied to pork-barrel actions by Congress. But even so, it’s worth pointing out examples of deviations from that norm, in order to ensure that DHS appropriations does not gradually become a morass of misallocated spending.