Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

August 5, 2011

The debt deal and the “security category”

Filed under: Budgets and Spending,Congress and HLS — by Philip J. Palin on August 5, 2011

The Budget Control Act of 2011 — aka the debt ceiling deal — formalizes a set of national security relationships seldom identified for common treatment.  According to the Act:

The term ‘security category’ includes discretionary appropriations associated with agency budgets for the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Nuclear Security Administration, the intelligence community management account (95–0401–0–1–054), and all budget accounts in budget function 150 (international affairs).

One other category — non-security — is created by the Act.

The statutory language is not entirely clear to me, in fact it is very obscure to me.  But in conversation with others I understand that by setting certain budget limitations on discretionary spending the debt deal is designed to encourage real horse trading on crafting a more reasonable budget.

For example, the debt deal says that unless other budget targets are achieved, discretionary spending shall be capped as follows:

With respect to fiscal year 2012- ‘‘(A) for the security category, $684,000,000,000 in new budget authority; and (B) for the nonsecurity category, $359,000,000,000 in new budget authority; ‘‘(2) with respect to fiscal year 2013— ‘‘(A) for the security category,  $686,000,000,000 in new budget authority; and  ‘‘(B) for the nonsecurity category, $361,000,000,000 in new budget authority;

These and other limitations on each of the two categories extended over the next ten years are so draconian that partisans of each category will supposedly be motivated to make other smarter and more specific cuts or authorize revenue increases in order to avoid the caps in the debt deal.

Whether or not mutual hostage taking ought be quite so central to crafting the federal budget is a topic for another day and, probably, a different blog.

Appropriate to the purposes of HLSWatch are the implications of Homeland Security sharing the same farrowing shed as defense, intelligence, the National Nuclear Security Administration, foreign affairs, and veterans.

A farrowing shed is where the mother sow gives birth and initially cares for her pig litter (I expose my rural Illinois origins).  In making this analogy I am not trying to say anything about pork-barrel politics.  Rather, I am suggesting a significant shift in the favored place of Homeland Security in the overall appropriations process.

For the last decade even when other appropriations were long-delayed, Homeland Security shared with Defense a place of honor at the top of the funding process.  Instead of a pig litter, in prior years HS might have been compared to a fine mare, named National Security, giving birth to twins. Certainly HS is much smaller than the first-born Pentagon, but HS has been given lots of attention precisely because of its comparative weakness.

Now DHS and its components are just one of many national security piglets, and arguably the runt of the litter.

While homeland security has usually not needed to compete head-to-head over funding with other national security players, it does regularly compete over policy attention, political priorities, and prestige.  It does not often win if the others play hard.

After a decade of war — and casualties — it is difficult to imagine significant cuts to the Department of Veterans Affairs and easy to imagine moral and pragmatic cause for increases.  For example, VA benefits are specifically protected in the debt deal.

Just given what is happening with nuclear proliferation — and the comparatively small size of its budget — the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration is unlikely to be seen as a candidate for meaningful budget-cutting.  Like a miniature albino pig, NNSA is more likely to be prized than paupered.

Foreign aid is a perpetual target, but it only totals $30 billion. Eliminate it and the long-term debt will barely twitch. The entire State Department annual operating budget is only a bit more than $14 billion.

Defense is and will remain the big boy of the lot.  The intelligence community is increasingly yoked to Defense.  The full intelligence budget — military and civilian — is mostly classified and tough to track, much less cut.

Within this “security category” the battle over priorities — financial and otherwise — will mostly be between the military, the diplomats, the spies, and the homeland security guys-and-gals.  The other three have more history, stronger political, commercial, and academic networks, more intellectual capital, often dress better — though Coast Guard uniforms are stylish — and are usually much more effective exercising influence.  Consider yesterday’s preemptive strike by Secretary Panetta and Admiral Mullen.

The real budget battle will be over Medicare cuts and revenue increases.  What will the security category need to symbolically and substantively contribute to this fight?  Certainly Defense will give the most.  But whatever is required of the entire litter, the runt is likely to contribute proportionally more.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

August 5, 2011 @ 3:29 am

I would ask whether the security of the USA rests on the domestic or national security category? Perhaps it should be obvious to many but to me it is not. I live in a largely black blue collar agricultural area which is deep in depression. Yet I also when occassionally lunching out see large groups of largely DOD contractors displaying their corporate logo T-shirts when dining out. FEW but me locally understand that these largely overfed and out of shape men are in fact DOD contractors at some sub-tier usually to large contractors.
Time to choose? Personally I believe the employment of many military personnel in their post career years with DOD contractors while perhaps justified reflect the fact that 20 and out for many not directly in combat during their military careers is perhaps indicative that 25 or 30 years might have been within their reach for military service. The Coasties don’t have this problem since soon virtually all will be employed by DHS post active service if they wish to keep working. They do bring a lot to the table but wondering if some without prior service also may bring something to the table. Time will tell. I continue to meet men and women with multiple tours in combat zones. I also meet more that have not shared in that service or risk.
What system do we want?
Do we want democracy or some other form of government?

Comment by Philip J. Palin

August 5, 2011 @ 4:55 am

A post-script to the front page: I understand the system of caps and triggers included in the debt deal is designed to spur real negotiation. I expect real negotiations and hope for reasonable negotiations. As a result of such negotiations, I expect homeland security cuts to contribute proportionally more than other elements of the security category to any future deal.

It is worth noting, however, that if the caps and triggers are implemented precisely as set out in the debt ceiling deal, Homeland Security will contribute very little. The following is from an analysis by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments:

The trigger sets separate caps for security and non-security spending for FY 2013 to FY2021, but it defines security spending more narrowly. Under the trigger provision, security spending only includes the 050 budget function for national defense. It does not include funding for International Affairs, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the vast majority of the Department of Homeland Security. The Department of Defense is 96 percent of the 050 budget function.

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 5, 2011 @ 7:22 am

Here is a suggestion! As Mark always points out there is no federal leadership of the FIRE service. Despite a US Fire Administration and 55,000 DOD civilian firefighters all on 20 retirement schedule.

So lets just have the FEDS collect statistics, hopefully good ones, on the PUBLIC SAFETY sector. This would include fire and police of course, EMTs, Public Health responders, EM and others. This could be broken down into the 90,000 subunits of STATE governments and the funding of these positions could also be provided. This would be annualized even though as we know turnover occurs constantly. Then the public and Congress might get some idea of the true underpinnings of the HS/EM system and perhaps even a ranking of communities much like done by ISO for the insurance business (property/casualty).
It is true that almost 1.5 million members of the fire service are volunteers and perhaps their level of training and equipment could also be analyzed. I do know that less than 10 % of the FIRE SERVICE professional and volunteers have adequate SCBA gear. And even fewer when CBRNE events are added in or as WMD.

Time for the people to know!~

Comment by John Comiskey

August 5, 2011 @ 7:45 am

The economy and the federal budget do belong in this blog.

Our national security is dwindling because like a not to recent nemesis, i.e. USSR, the US will not [IMHO] be able to continue spending our way to stay on the top.

It’s a global economy and the completion is coming right at us.

We are simply spending too much on Defense. The fight [IMHO] will be to convince ourselves that our future lies in global socio-economics.

How might the US effectively compete?

1. Constitutional Convention: Ask four questions:
i. What’s working?
ii. What is not working?
iii. What can and should we today and tomorrow?
iv. What happens if we ignore # iii?
2. Asking ourselves what we can do for our country and not so much what our country can do for us. (txs jfk)
3. National Strategy to Promote Self-Reliance
4. National Strategy to Promote 21st Education replete with opportunities for technical training.
*** [Qualified] teachers elevated to Nation Builders status.
5. Pray

Comment by Philip J. Palin

August 5, 2011 @ 11:46 am

John, While I like your questions, I would not currently support a Constitutional Convention. I don’t perceive our problems are as much constitutional problems as socio-economic and cultural problems that must be resolved before our constitutional system can self-correct.

The issues of self-reliance, neighborhood resilience, and education — issues that I would like to link — are key expressions of the socio-economic and cultural transition we are currently undergoing. I would prefer to work these issues locally and regionally, not in a national constitutional convention.

My bias — and that is all it is at this point — is that we are spending too much on defense and too much on health care. In each case we seem addicted to spending “whatever it takes” to eliminate an identified threat. I would prefer more attention to risk management that maximizes quality of life.

Comment by The 1793 Large Cent and The Lack of Security In 2011

August 7, 2011 @ 11:23 am

Defense spending must be cut – bottomline! Big government must be cut despite the pain….

Waste, fraud and abuse by the Pentagon has no defense for the massive cost overruns and even Robert Gates pointed to this recently — rebalance foreign policy — get some monies into foreign service – “Every dollar uselessly spent” Dwight Eisenhower pointed to, make us that much weaker —

Let’s get the government downsized and this President and his WH “Beltway Bandits” – these – elists – fellow cohorts who have chosen to spend up the budget deficit when this nation can no longer simply afford such spending and more spending….oust those Republican, Democrat whomever – We are a Republic, a most charitable people, a natin which has beenuntil recetly the beacon of hope to so many oppressed by Lucifer and his footsoldiers – Yes, We are a Judeo-Christan nation and yes, We do understand the ineptness of local, state and national policy-making which has placed us – never mind the kids and grandkids, We in much jeopardy and We must face the pain — Now!

$2 trillion+ sits in corporate coffers – we must decreaae corporate taxes and reign in this ever widening and liberal spending of monies – with at least 1 in 7 families – on fod stamps and a much greater percentage reliant on government, this continued course led here by Barry and his pals will inevitably Not bode well —

Do those of us think here on “Main Sreet USA” truly believe the “Beltway Bandits” can get the job done, my bet as a gambling professional, No way! The devisive mentality gripping local, state and national self-serving elitists and their – big-government – imposition on America reminds me of the….

….scared face and frightening looking eyes I am presently looking at here in the office on the face of a 1793 large cent and as I turn it over, the “One Cent” on the reverse side is surrounded by chain and in this first series of coins minted, our true Patriots screamed that these chains on the ack of the large cent as it loked like we are in bondage and it was changed in the next coins to wreath –

Well, that was in 1793 when copper was scarce and imported from Sweden and it is said that George Washington turned in some personal items made of copper to mint these first coins, maybe even this first I am holding in hand, however this prompts the following question and maybe more you present….

….from 1793 and this first penny in hand and now today in 2011, We are in bondage to big government spending as evidenced by even the added $2.5 trillion increase in the last two or so years when we are challnged now by a nearly $15 trillion budget shortfall so should our coins minted today include not only the chain as in the first 1793 coins minted, but also the wreath in later version of these first rare coins having a wreath for if this “charade” in partisan politics continues – which it will by the way – I propose the weath included along with the chain for the wreath will portray the death of America, the land our so enlightened forefathers who Warned us of those governing and reminded us to read Biblical verse and be weary of the fact that every form of man-made government has failed since Babylon as a result of greed, self-agenda and abusive ways towards the innocent.

As inevitably War looms ahead, God Bless us all! We have enough weapons to assure that like the carpet bombing of Dresden, little hope will be left for those few survivors to finally learn that history does indeed have lessons to learn from and failing to adhere to scripture by all humanity as clearly spelled out in Biblical scripture where We should all strive to seek and identlfy our similarities and make effort to understand our differences….

To my fellow Americans as Jack coined this reference so well, hoist your front porch flags upside down and show the distress We here on “Main Street USA” now see and hear, no longer a whisper from the pews….

We fled the King and taxes imposed and just as this coin shows, we are enslaved by the chain of partisan polictics which will eventually see a wreath placed at our final demise….This bondage evoked from teasoness acts must be addressed….

On a quick other note, “What did Jimmy Carter tell the Syrians in his closed door sessions” – and as a past President had no busienss conducting any discussions without Presidential request…I met this man on the streets of Cairo and in Athens in the same week back in ’86 and given his off-handed remarks towards the Israelis and the questionables I saw in his entourage especially when I saw him walking up at the Acropolis…Wake Up America for we have been hoodwinked by the same we have “entrusted” to serve the public with hand on Bible in oath of office to protect the United State Constitution! Intersstingly, what is James Carter communicating over the telephone with these Syrian thugs who are killing in cold blood thousands of their very own — with God witness to all these travesties….the degradation of humainity with WWII and millions and millions of human souls so easily killed and discarded so….What a pity!

The German-led EU soon to be comprised of only ten (10) nations accompanied by its cohort, the all powerful Vatican and its warped agenda will lead the west to confront the east as it has done in the past and We shall onec again find ourselves nearing extinction if it were not for the hand of our Creator who must be so angered by the disregard and disrespect We hold towards Life….

(Chris)topher Tingus
Po Box 1612
Harwich (Cape Cod), MA 02645

Whether Republican or Democrat, the clock is ticking – it is Now or We’ve lost our beloved Republic and We will be at War!

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 9, 2011 @ 8:04 am

The new commission is designed to deadlock and then the automatic reductions will occur. Neither Congress nor the Executive Branch wants to do the heavy lifting of governance. Specifically thoughtful and rationale analysis and policy making.

Hey by 2045 USA will be an historical footnote of how “The RISE and FALL of the GREAT POWERS” nailed it when published.

Comment by The "Beltway Bandits"

August 13, 2011 @ 6:59 am

“Thoughtful and rationale analysis and policy making” – by these “beltway bandits” not only inept, but outright corrupt in their self-serving way —

I believe all three rating agencies will downgrade US and as an advocate of gold and silver when gold was valued at 228 or so, a new international currency backed by gold and less pressure on the Swiss surrency which has seen such dramatic swings – fly your American flag upside down, we are in distress and no leadership to take us upwards and onwards – God Bless our beloved Republic and those who will suffer such anguish from those whose intent is to oppress their populace in their lust for power as we see by the “Brutes of Tehran” and these thugs who head up the Syrian regime —

Christopher Tingus
“Main Street USA”

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