On June 1 the 2012 Homeland Security Appropriations bill was submitted for action in the House of Representatives. The legislation provides $40.6 billion in non-emergency funding for the various programs and agencies within DHS. This is a decrease of $1.1 billion – or 2.6% – below last year’s level and $3 billion – or 7% – below the President’s request.
The entire bill is available from the Appropriations Committee’s website. Several amendments were being considered by the whole House on Wednesday and Thursday. The outcome of those votes are summarized here.
In commenting on the bill, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) commented, ““We’ve significantly reduced or eliminated ineffective and wasteful programs, while requiring reforms in underperforming programs through heightened oversight, to get the most out of each and every tax dollar. This includes long-overdue reform of the State and Local Grant program under the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has been plagued by inefficiency. These grants often remain in federal coffers for years – right now, there is a backlog of more than $13 billion in unspent funds. As such, this bill reduces funding for this program by $2.1 billion, changing the structure and requiring increased measurement and reporting.”
Here’s related language from the Appropriations Committee report on the homeland security appropriations bill:
The Committee recommends long-overdue reform of FEMA’s administration of its State and Local Programs. For far too long, FEMA has failed to measure the return on investment for the billions of dollars awarded through its first responder grant programs. Furthermore, billions of dollars appropriated in prior years for first responder grants remain unspent due to a variety of reasons, some of which are entirely inexcusable. The Committee believes the Nation’s fiscal crisis and the importance of preparedness and the work of State, local, and tribal first responders to the homeland security mission necessitate bold reform. Therefore, the Committee recommends the following: (1) a substantial reduction in annual appropriations for FEMA’s State and Local Programs; (2) a reorganization of FEMA’s State and Local Programs with funding administered at the discretion of the Secretary and prioritized to the greatest needs and highest risks; (3) a mandate for the FEMA Administrator to submit a plan to drawdown all unexpended balances by the end of fiscal year 2012 from funds appropriated prior to fiscal year 2008 under the heading ‘‘State and Local Programs’’; and (4) a withholding of fifty percent of the funding for the Office of the Secretary and Executive Management until the submission of the National Preparedness Goal and National Preparedness System, consistent with the directions within the recently signed Presidential Policy Directive-8. The latter requirement is designed to compel the Department to begin taking steps to measure the effectiveness and future requirements of these programs.
In addition to the rationale noted above, the cuts to Homeland Security appropriations should be seen as part of the ongoing process of negotiating a deficit reduction plan. Actual appropriations will reflect Senate input, the outcome of a broader agreement — if any — on the deficit, and horse trading in the eventual House-Senate conference.
Following is specific report language on the proposed reduction in State and Local Programs:
The Committee recommends $1,000,000,000 for State and Local Programs, $2,844,663,000 below the amount requested and $1,229,500,000 below the amount provided in fiscal year 2011. These reductions are due to the persistent lack of quantifiable metrics that measure the additional capability that our Nation has gained for the billions that have been invested and the inability of programs to expend their funds in a timely manner. These concerns, combined with the inadequacy of the Department’s request for a number of other programs, such as ignoring $4,900,000,000 in known disaster costs and $650,000,000 in offsets from aviation security and customs fee revenue that has not yet been authorized, force the Committee to make tough decision on all programs.
Due to a historical pattern of poor execution and management, the Committee is recommending significant reform to the DHS grants process. For years, the Committee has asked question after question of the Department regarding grants and the returns the taxpayers are getting for the funds invested. Today, these questions remain largely unanswered. Therefore, the Committee is making three significant recommendations on first responder grants.
First, the Committee recommends reorganizing the grant program to allow funds to be directed towards the highest need. In the wake of recent terrorist activity, this reorganization will allow the Secretary the discretion to apply limited funds to the programs that have the highest need based on the threat and risk. To address urban areas with the highest threat, the Committee has included language specifically limiting Urban Area Security Initiative funds to the top 10 highest risk urban areas.
Second, the Committee has addressed the massive amounts of unexpended balances in programs. Based on the latest estimates, the Department currently has almost $13,000,000,000 in previously appropriated funds that remain unspent dating back to fiscal year 2005. This level of unexpended balances is unacceptable. To encourage a sense of urgency, the Committee includes a proviso directing the Administrator of the FEMA to submit within 60 days of the date enactment of this Act, a plan to expend all unexpended balances by the end of fiscal year 2012 from funds appropriated prior to fiscal year 2008 under the heading ‘‘State and Local Programs’’.
Third, the Committee has included language directing the submission of the National Preparedness Goal and National Preparedness System consistent with the directions within the recently signed Presidential Policy Directive—8. Funds have been fenced within the funding provided for the Office of the Secretary until information on these programs are provided to the Committee
Unexpended balances are an unequivocal measure of ambiguous meaning. This is especially the case with federal funds for state and local programs.
There are situations where funds remain because federal officials have not been proactive in working with state and local officials. There are other situations where state and local officials have been slow, even reluctant to integrate federal priorities with existing priorities. Delayed expenditure is especially an issue where federal programs — appropriately and helpfully — are encouraging state and local innovation. In some cases funds remain unexpended because of substantive disagreements between levels of government on appropriate purpose and strategy.
Sometimes delayed expenditure is the result of stupidity. Other times it is the outcome of prudence. The $13 billion includes plenty of each.