Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

April 25, 2007

Emergency War Supp Funds the Homefront

Filed under: Budgets and Spending,Congress and HLS — by Jonah Czerwinski on April 25, 2007

Whatever the fate of this war supplemental, it is hard to accept the argument that all of the domestic spending included is out-of-scope.  The House-Senate agreement (HR 1591) provides about $2.25 billion in funds directed at homeland security needs.  The original request included zero homeland dollars. Below is a comparison chart provided by CQ Homeland Security that the Congress released showing the breakdown of funds.

Congressional comparison chart of Emergency Supp

Among the highlights:

  • $978 million for aviation security
  • $458.5 million for border and container security
  • $652.5 million for security grants to ports, transit systems and states.
  • $115 million for the Secure Freight Initiative and SAFE Ports Act. 
  • $325 million for rail and transit security
  • $223.5 million the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office to acquire and deploy a fleet of next generation Radiation Portal Monitors.

I’m in Berlin for the next few days courtesy Aspen Institute.  In the meantime, please offer your thoughts on the war supplemental. 

April 17, 2007

USCG to LockMart/Northrop: Thanks a Billion(s) for Nothing

Filed under: Business of HLS,Port and Maritime Security — by Jonah Czerwinski on April 17, 2007

Spencer Hsu and Renae Merle write in today’s Washington Post that the U.S. Coast Guard responded to Congressional frustration over the failure of a consortium of contractors to deliver on the $24 billion modernization program called Deepwater.  Among other disappointing developments under Deepwater, a clear necessity for providing the USCG part of what it needs to carry out a growing list of HLS missions, the new cutters built by consortium leads LockheedMartin and Northrop Grumman don’t float.  $100 million a piece, they’ll never be used. 

Failures prompted the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee leadership yesterday to call for the Justice Department to open a civil and criminal investigation into Deepwater.  As a result of this restructuring of Deepwater, Coast Guard must reissue a 43-month extension of the contract. About $2.3 billion has been committed to the program so far, and the second phase is reported by Hsu and Merle to be worth $2.5-$3 billion.

Perhaps we should’ve seen it coming.  Last August, the DHS IG issued his warning about the program’s execution.  IG Skinner cited “limited oversight as well as unclear contract requirements,” which prevented DHS/USCG from “ensur[ing] that the contractor is making the best decisions toward accomplishing Deepwater IT goals.”  Hmm.  Do we blame the requirements, the agency, or the contractor?  The Washington Post’s Steve Kelman wrote an insightful analysis explaining diff’rent strokes for different IGs by suggesting an ideological posture that may decide how this question is ultimately answered.

And it looks like it may be answered soon enough: Tomorrow’s hearing (4/18) before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee at 2:00 p.m. in 2167 Rayburn is entitled “Compliance with Requirements of the Coast Guard’s Deepwater Contract.”  For a witness list, click here.

— Special Note —

Please keep the families and friends of the victims of yesterday’s shootings at Virginia Tech in your thoughts. VT student bloggers commenting on the shooting were highlighted here.  More on this issue is available.  -CZ

April 3, 2007

US-VISIT Xfer to NPPD Billed as Info-Sharing Imperative

Filed under: Intelligence and Info-Sharing,Organizational Issues — by Jonah Czerwinski on April 3, 2007

Deputy Under Secretary for Preparedness Robert Zitz and Acting Director for US-VISIT Robert Mocny testified March 20 before the House Homeland Security Committee about the National Preparedness and Protection Directorate (NPPD). 

Zitz said the NPPD will integrate risk reduction activities of the Office of Infrastructure Protection, Office of Cyber Security and Communications, and US-VISIT.  Mocny explained that US-VISIT will move to the new Directorate to support DHS-wide risk management efforts, but also to better share VISIT-gathered information across other authorities of the USG (State, DOJ, the intelligence community). 

Connecting up State, Justice, and the IC with information gathered from screening conducted by ICE, CBP, USCIS, Consular offices, and FBI sounds like an important priority, and a significant undertaking.  Oversight of this kind of information sharing would appear to be almost as difficult given the privacy issues and permissions likely to be involved, let alone the coordination of it to reduce redundant screening and resolve inconsistent data.  Where the DHS Screening Coordination Office fits into this effort is pretty important, too.  I did not attend this hearing so I do not know if Members raised the SCO an issue.  If any readers have insight on this, please comment.