Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

June 6, 2011

Will Hard Appropriations Decisions Leave the U.S. Between A Rock and A Hard Place?

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Jessica Herrera-Flanigan on June 6, 2011

Last Thursday, the House approved a 2012 Homeland Security Appropriations bill that slashes homeland spending by $1.1 billion dollars (2.6% decrease) for this year.  The bill is $3 million less (more than 7%) than the Obama budget request. The bill passed the House by a vote of 231-188, with many voting against it expressing concerns and objections over proposed cuts to mass transit, grant programs, and interoperable communications.

The biggest cuts were to grants and the Science & Technology directorate.

In the grants area, President Obama had requested $3 billion for various grant programs, including those intended to strengthen mass transit and port security efforts.  The bill allocated $807 million.  There was an effort by Congressmen Tim Bishop and Rush Holt to add $75 million to help build up mass transit security, especially in light of evidence gathered during the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound suggested that trains were an inviting target. That amendment was defeated.

The Science & Technology Directorate was decimated, being allocated $398 million, a 52% percent cut.  The Administration had actually asked for more funding for the critical directorate – close to $1.2 billion. According to Science Insider, the decrease “will wipe out dozens of programs, stalling the development of technologies for border protection, detection of bio-hazards, and cargo screening.”

For many of the cuts, supporters of the bill said that a number of grant programs were not proven to provide federal benefit in our homeland security efforts.  Others noted that some funds from past years remain unspent.

These are obviously hard times requiring financial discipline at all levels of government and the private sector.  That said, terrorists and disasters do not stop doing their thing because the U.S. needs to reduce its deficit.

There is also no question that the U.S. government must be more efficient in how it allocates and spends homeland security funding.  The grants programs are in need of tuning — we’ve seen over the past ten years the call for a more risk-based approach to homeland security grant allocations.  It is unclear, however, how the grants cuts proposed by the House bill address the needs of homeland security while promoting efficiencies.  If there are abuses, duplication or a lack of necessity for funds, then substantial assessments – tied to risks and threats-should more clearly drive the homeland security appropriations process.  Complicating such an approach is how to link homeland spending to disasters as disasters cannot be predicted, though they can be prepared for.

In terms of the Science & Technology cuts, those  potentially put our nation at risk in the long term.  As the 9/11 Commission noted in its assessment of the failures leading to 9/11, “[t]he most important failure was one of imagination. We do not believe leaders understood the gravity of the threat.”  The work that is happening in S&T is intended to meet present and future threats in a thoughtful way.  Rather than being reactive and instituting security measures as things arise and after the fact (think quart baggies for liquids and shoe removal), the work in S&T should be addressing and anticipating homeland security needs – linking the private sector to academia to government to end users.  If the cuts to S&T are intended to address deficiencies in the component, then those deficiencies should be specifically addressed rather than cutting the component in its entirety.

With the exception of funding restrictions for TSA on personnel issues (meant to tackle collective bargaining and private screeners), most of the homeland security appropriations cuts do not seem political in and of themselves.  While the intent may be well-meaning in most instances, the U.S. cannot risk making the wrong decisions on the homeland security front.  Al Qaeda is as interested in causing us economic damage as physical harm.  The wrong cuts now could actually end up costing the U.S. more in the long run if vulnerabilities are left unaddressed.


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Comment by Arnold Bogis

June 6, 2011 @ 7:39 pm

A great post, though I have to disagree with the concept that “most of the homeland security appropriations cuts do not seem political in and of themselves.”

Where are the equivalent cuts in defense? Missile defense? Even intelligence? Homeland security is an easier political target, especially when it comes to state/local grants (how do large urban areas tend to vote…). The policy shop has been cut, the science shop has been cut, the grants have been cut.

I guess I’m a cynic, but I’ll believe in the non-partisan nature of these reductions when I see equivalent cuts in the defense budget.

Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » “How can we then make decisions who have so well unlearned to decide.”

June 7, 2011 @ 3:03 am

[…] Yesterday, Jessica reported: […]

Comment by Christpher Tingus

June 7, 2011 @ 3:13 am

Well Arnold, unfortunately the “beltway bandits” so dysfunctional in their way, so embarassing in their manner, seemingly involved in appaling scandal so very often from the executive office down the ranks, outrightly lying to the press, their families, their colleagues, their constituents and to themselves as if they can hoodwink so many!

Not to take anything away from each and every DHS dedicated and unselfish committed individual who I have seen firsthand such loyalty and willingness to serve the nation, however the truth, DHS is far too political and guess what, so is Washington in its ineptness, its incestuous applause of one another as their gait in self-importance is so apparent. The good ‘ol fellas and even the gals are a disgrace at the Congressional level for sure and while we are on certain course with depression and soup lines as this executive Chicago community organizer and his “Goldman Sachs” administration don’t give a damn about unemployment rising again to 9.1% persistent in an administration that hooted at the guy before quick to pint the finger —

Having a long connection back to the defense sector and given the fact that the “Brutes of Tehran” and the “KGB Putinites” as I refer to them not only have their finger on the trigger and unverified reports here wonder if whispers of missile launchers in Venezuela may be fact and no one at the WH or in Congress seems to know how the Monroe Dctrine can be put into play and We might use our big stick…oh that’s right, We truly believe that others will step in and fill our shoes, I don’t think so –

Defemse budgets, intel budgets, all should be maintained at current levels as China and particularly Germany with its new fast deployment Army with ships sailing the Mediterannean and its manufacturing might awakened and producing arms and ammunitioon to Kuwait and the region cognizant of the 55 Arab states that will soon clasp hands and these idiots in the beltway are far tio engrossed in their sexual and perverse ways and prostuted to special interests to truly understand that We as a nation are waning in our influence and our gridlock, our inability to see beyond this partisan crap, contrary to the oath each has taken to protect this great Republic and most charitable people, a nation which in the past understood the call required of – freedom – as We are being subjected to thse from within and our US Constitution besieged by thse within, not AQ and the Taliban who will gain access to Iraq and will be engulfed by the might of the next reich and the Vatican church for America is not really the player as the days go on and we face crippling financial calamity…

Get the misssiles ready, shore up the borders, fund the USCG to protect our shores, however while the NY politicians, those like the Governoor f SC and this fella making such a clown of himself ans so many more, Lucifer walks among us and without real leadership from the top, yea, you Barry et al, We have nt a clue as to how vivid the shock and awe over the Middle East will light up the skies and We are so crippled…so shameful for a nation who have always been ready to protect the oppressed and willing to fight for the freedom and to use force…What a bumch of air heads and as the economy slips from our grasp as the “bankers” as hoars have raped us, kicked us out of our homes and fellas like barry and Deval talk about “change” w/the only change, the few pennies we had left and all stolen from us —

God Bless America and rid DHS of the political appointees as there are those at DHS that take thjeir job seriously, dedicated and ready to serve and understand those that seek ur demise and the complexities of this corrupt world soon to immerse itself in War and all that encompasses man’s dysfunctional and narrw-midned perspective of neighbor and other –

God Bless us all!

Christopher Tingus
PO Box 1612
Harwich, MA 02645 USA

Comment by William R. Cumming

June 7, 2011 @ 4:05 am

The Executive Branch continues to deprive itself and Congress of basic information needed for governance.

Comment by William R. Cumming

June 7, 2011 @ 7:10 pm

It would be interesting to have an analysis of DHS investment in Decision Support Systems since its creation. See POST after this one.

Please please keep the Lawyers out of the position of Secretary DHS who pretends as all the others to be in the chain of command in crisis management. Lawyers are
trained as analysts and advisors not operators. Some exceptions of course. Perhaps the Consiglieri Class.

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