Congress boosts DHS appropriations
A House/Senate conference has pushed fiscal 2007 funding for the Homeland Security Department nearly $3 billion above the amount President Bush requested, with more than half of the increase going for new and expanded border protection initiatives.
In response to the government’s poorly coordinated relief operations after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, conferees included a provision that boosts the standing of the Federal Emergency Management Agency within DHS and promotes its administrator to the level of deputy secretary.
According to the legislation, the FEMA director must have extensive emergency response and crisis management experience. The appropriations bill also would require better and clearer coordination among federal, state and local emergency preparedness organizations.
The bill also would also provide more than $1.14 billion for acceleration of the Coast Guard’s Integrated Deepwater System, about $80 million more than the president’s request. Congress cut funding for Deepwater in fiscal 2006.
Overall, the bill calls for $34.8 billion of discretionary spending for DHS operations and activities, $2.3 billion more than Congress allotted for fiscal 2006. Other items include:
- More than $8 billion for customs and border protection, including money to pay for 1,500 new border patrol agents; $1.2 billion for border fencing, technology and infrastructure; and more than $139 million for the Container Security Initiative.
Along with that and funds for various inspection technologies, the conferees included language in the bill requiring stringent performance requirements that “mandate a strategy to double the amount of cargo currently inspected, screen 100 percent of cargo through the Automated Targeting System and establish minimum security standards for cargo containers.”
The bill also requires DHS to develop a comprehensive strategic plan for port, cargo and container security and another one for the Secure Border Initiative.
- More than $3.39 billion for first responder grants and assistance, including $900 million for state and local government programs and $770 million for the Urban Security Initiative.
- Nearly $543 million for infrastructure protection and information security, including $101 million for critical infrastructure outreach and for partnerships for data sharing, and $87 million for cybersecurity activities.
Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.