Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

May 12, 2009

Secretary Napolitano on the Hill to Support the Budget

Filed under: Budgets and Spending,General Homeland Security — by Jessica Herrera-Flanigan on May 12, 2009

Secretary Napolitano took to Capitol Hill today for a double-header  of hearings defending the Department of Homeland Security’s FY2010 budget request of $55.1 billion ($42.7 billion in appropriated funding) . It was the first day in a two-day series of hearings before the 4 homeland authorizing and appropriations committees.  On today’s schedule:  the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee and the Senate Homeland Security & Government Affairs Committee.  Tomorrow, the Secretary will appear before the House Homeland Security Committee and the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee.

The message at the two hearings today was rather straightforward:  The Department will continue to take an all hazards approach to homeland security and there will be increased focus on collaborations with partners across the federal, state, local, Tribal, private sector, and intergovernmental spectrum. The Secretary identified the top five priority areas for the fledging agency.

First,  Guarding Against Terrorism – the budget request demonstrated, she said, an increased interest in “detecting explosives in public spaces and transportation networks, helping protect critical infrastructure and cyber networks from attack, detecting agents of biological warfare, and building information-sharing partnerships with state and local law enforcement that can enable law enforcement to mitigate threats.”

Second, Securing the Border – Given the Secretary’s former career as a border state governor and her expressed interest in fighting the increased violence along the border, this priority is anything but a surprise.

Third, Enforcing immigration laws – If Comprehensive Immigration Reform ever becomes a plausible reality this year, the Secretary will be a key player with a seat at the table.  Until that happens, however, the Secretary is keeping the Department focused on strengthening eligibility verification systems,  cracking down on criminal aliens, and expediting legal immigrant applications.

Fourth, Improving responses and recovery for disasters  – Whether Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will stay in or leave DHS is a heated issue that has garnered tremendous interest on the Hill and among experts. For now, it is in and Secretary Napolitano made it clear that DHS remains dedicated to ensuring a functioning and successful FEMA.

Fifth, Building One DHS.  As an agency spread across town, with senior leadership relegated to the boondocks of D.C., the Secretary rightly promoted consolidation efforts, as well as the move to integrate much of the agency to St. Elizabeth’s campus.

During the question and answer period, Secretary Napolitano faced a grilling on immigration-related issues.  In the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, Chairman Price, for example, focused on the deportation of criminal aliens and building a stronger Immigrations an Customs Enforcement (ICE).

She also answered a number of questions on cybersecurity, which kept coming up and up again.  The Secretary stressed the need for less stovepiping and more coordination.   Expect cybersecurity’s importance to continue to grow, esp. after the White House issues its 60 day review of the nation’s cyber efforts.  As noted in tomorrow’s Washington Post, the struggle to create  a cyber czar,  is being fought over by the National Security Council and the National Economic Council.

Secretary Napolitano also took a grilling on TSA-related issues and the right-wing extremist report that caused a stir a few weeks ago.

Overall, the Secretary gets an A for her efforts today.  The Department is coming of age and appears focused on its core missions under her.  What remains to be seen, however, is whether Secretary Napolitano will remain at the Department to see through the budget implementation.  She has been identified as a potential Supreme Court nominee.

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2 Comments »

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 13, 2009 @ 8:56 am

Has anyone but a woman held the Arizona seat on SCOTUS? Guess that Janet N. is at least on the list but wonder where are the true Constitutional scholars needed to ensure that the Court accurately reflects the history of its importance to the development of the entirety of the governmental system of the US! What do I mean? The convoluted SCOTUS rulings on pre-emption of state law by federal law–really interpreting the Supremacy and Commerce Clauses of the Constitution– and the analysis and discussion of Presidential Chief Executive powers vis a vis Commander-In-Chief powers could be worth a close watch over the next two decades. Why? Well with federal funding of STATE and Local governmental budgets now crossing the 50% mark it does appear federalism is threatened largely by the ignorance and incompetence of the Congress. Why not just federalize medicade funding and unemployment compensation instead of having state by state differences? Also national security and homeland defense are directly supported by certain STATE and LOCAL assets, including the National Guard (already has over 90% of training and deployment costs [including declared disasters]paid for by Uncle Sugar but why not a flat percentage of all STATE and LOCAL public safety costs including police, fire, EMT, HAZMAT, public health) while some federal programs functions and activities are really tied directly to STATE and LOCAL governmental units. What I am really arguing for under the guise of SCOTUS is back to Congress to rationalize its budget allocations to the STATE and LOCALs in the arena of Homeland Security in particular.

By the way will any of the above committees ask the Secretary if performance of DHS could be enhanced by a statutory cap or reduction on numbers of Presidential appointees (including PAS, non-career SES, and schedule C’s)?

Should not just FEMA but any other portion of DHS be reviewed for transfer elsewhere? And of courses was anything crucial left out at the creation of DHS? I would argue DEA and the DOJ retained portions of old AT&F! Perhaps other things also.

Also does the Secretary think any unauthorized programs, functions, and activities in DHS should be authorized? Or if authorized, unfunded?

Finally, The Vitter hold on Fugat now cancelled apparently reveals again that the STAFFORD ACT has major deficiencies as a response and recovery and crisis management statute. What about funding a two year study of that statute by Bi-partisan Commission to review its successes and failures? Should it also cover events like Pandemics? Or hospitalization costs of responders resulting from declared incidents and events? Should Emergency Declarations under the Stafford Act follow the procedures of the National Emergencies Act of 1976? Should all of DHS go on a standardized 25 years and out retirement system? Hey this is fun! Hope the Committees are brainstorming also.

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