Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

May 8, 2009

In the Money: Assessing the Homeland Security Budget Numbers

Filed under: Budgets and Spending,Congress and HLS,General Homeland Security — by Jessica Herrera-Flanigan on May 8, 2009

Funding for homeland security continued its increase in the President’s budget, request though at a slower pace than previous years. The budget for the Department of Homeland Security saw a $2.6 billion increase to $55.1 billon, almost half of the $5.2 billion increase it saw in the FY2008 and FY2009 enacted budgets.  That number, however, could increase once Congress takes up its homeland security spending bills.

The most striking difference between this and past budgets?  The Administration is not proposing to eliminate or significantly cut back on state and local grant programs.   Over the past several years, the Bush Administration and Congress participated in a ping-pong game with the ball being the money for first responders, preventers, and state and local governments.

At a time where state and local governments are facing severe economic woes, President Obama wisely decided not to cut back on these critical programs such as the State and Homeland Security Grant Program and the Urban Area Security Initiative Grant Program.  On first glance, it would seem that firefighter grants took a hit, with funding for Fire Act grants being cut by more than 60% to $170 million.  Looking more closely at the numbers reveals that SAFER grants, which support the additional costs for salaries and benefits to hire additional firefighters on the ground across the Nation, doubled to $420 million.  This was a program that the previously Administration had zeroed out in its last budget request to Congress.

Border security is front and center for former Arizona Governor and Secretary Janet Napolitano’s DHS. Concerns that an Obama Administration would weaken border security and immigration enforcement efforts have proven to be unfounded, as Obama has asked Congress for $27 billion to beef up border efforts.   Here’s a handy guide on border funding:

What’s Out:

  • Fences and barrier ($779 million requested, which is much less than the $926 million allocated during FY 2009).
  • State Alien Criminal Assistance Program.  The budget request zeros out the $400 million budget for the program, which reimburses states and counties for holding illegal immigrants with felony convictions.  President Bush regularly zeroed out the program in his budget and Congress routinely reinstated.  Senator Feinstein said the decision to cut the program “deprives communities of critical funding for public safety services.” Obama ends well-liked program for border security. Expect Congress to reinstate, if not increase, funding for this popular program.

What’s In:

  • $70 million for 350 special agents to increase coordination with Mexico.
  • $ 2 billion for the Justice Department’s Southwest Border Initiative.
  • $46.8 billion for more Border Patrol agents and CBP officers to shore up efforts to combat gun and drug money flow.
  • $200 million for increased funding to the Secure Communities program.
  • $112 million to strengthen employment eligibility verification systems.
  • $144.9 million to support implementation of WHTI.

The Department’s shifting position on Real ID may be found in the numbers.  Requested funding for the driver’s license hub was cut in half to $25 million.  At the same time, $50 million was provided for the Driver’s License Security Grants Program.  The National Governor’s Association had requested $1 billion for the program.   Expect Congress to look closely at these numbers and a renewed interest in legislation – pro and con REAL ID.

The budget also contains funding to consolidate the Department’s numerous components and agencies into a new headquarters facility and to improve the agency’s IT infrastructure. Grumbling on the Hill over the increased funding for “administrative”  functions at the cost of increased funding for substantive areas were starting to develop yesterday.   Worth watching whether DHS’ efforts to get its house in order will prevail over these criticisms.

The budget also increases the Department’s counterterrorism efforts across a range of areas – from additional TSA resources and programs to $400 million for increased critical infrastructure and cybersecurity efforts, to $94.5 million for biological warfare prevention.  It is not clear whether the increased cybersecurity funding takes into account the President’s 60-day review of cybersecurity efforts  in the federal government. The review’s report and recommendations on where cyber should sit in the federal government are expected any day.

A discussion of the budget would not be complete without noting which programs didn’t make it this year.  The homeland security termination list is a lot shorter than past years—should make Congress’ job a lot easier, especially since homeland security appropriations bills do not technically contain earmarks.  Among the programs the Administration proposes to eliminate:

  • The Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Grant Program – the Administration says the program does not allocate based on risk assessment.
  • Inter-City Bus Security Grant Program – ditto. No risk assessment award, no funding.
  • Trucking Security Program – make that three programs cut because of failing to take a risk-based approach to handing out money.
  • Loran-C:  This terrestrial-based, long-range radionavigation system was deemed to be based on obsolete technology.
  • Energy Use, Office, Supplies and Equipments: In furtherance of the Secretary’s efforts to tighten the Department’s overall spending, the budget proposes saving millions of dollars through renewable energy efforts and coordinated/centralized spending on supplies and equipment.
  • Logos  and Seals:  The various components and agencies at DHS will not be allowed to pay outside companies to develop snazzy seals and logos for their agencies.  The Administration determined that since DHS’ creation, more than $3 million has been spent on these efforts.
  • EPA’s Homeland Security Grants – redundancy with other programs and less demand by the States killed this program.

The risk-based focus on homeland security funding, as well as yesterday’s budget request, are promising signs for the future of homeland security efforts. As Secretary Napolitano continues her efficiency review of the Department and drills down into its programs, we can expect this higher standard to permeate throughout the agency’s efforts.

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Comment by David Kanaga

May 8, 2009 @ 10:30 am

“Urban Area Security Imitative (sic) grant,” I realize this is probably just a typo, but could it be a Freudian slip? Many of the program recipients do seem to have developed the spending habits and cozy relationships with vendors that seem all too common within DoD.

This program badly needs review. Many of the recipients themselves acknowledge that it has done little more than promote wasteful spending on new equipment, not genuine improvements in capability.

Comment by Arnold

May 8, 2009 @ 10:39 am

Some generalizations about the direction of DHS policy can be made from this analysis.

–True recognition that state and locals are partners, not simply entities to be commanded.

–Realization that “staff not stuff” is important. Doesn’t matter how many MCI trailers a state buys if they don’t have the personnel trained and ready to use them.

–Not just saying the words “risk management,” but perhaps actually believing in the concept.

Comment by Peter J. Brown

May 8, 2009 @ 10:40 am

Among other things, the proposed EOC Grant program termination puzzles me. On the one hand, the DHS budget calls for both the National Communications System and the Office of Emergency Communications at DHS to share to a degree in the fairly large increase in funding for the DHS Office of Infrastructure Protection. On the other hand, is the status of EOC capabilities, especially in terms of surge, training and redundancy at the local level in particular at the level necessary so that everyone can sit back and say that everything is OK in this regard? Are all the EOC personnel issues addressed now, especially staffing levels and training for same? I am not so sure.

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 8, 2009 @ 11:40 am

EOC funding goes back to the Federal Civil Defense Act of 1950 (Public Law 81-920) repealed in 1994 by Public Law 103-337 and small sections incorporated in the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. At one time the feds funded 50% of EOC construction costs but not staffing which to some extent was through the EMPG grants program.

Personally I believe that mobile EOC’s given communications developments might be more useful but always nice to have someplace to gather the civil domestic crisis command and implementation group. Some EOC’s have EMP protection.

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