2012 budget: DHS wins some, loses some

Southwestern border technology, scientific research programs and grants for state and local first responders are losing support in the Homeland Security Department’s final budget for fiscal 2012 approved by Congress.

Meanwhile, cybersecurity and biosurveillance systems are among the programs gaining expanded funding.

Overall, the consolidated spending bill approved by the House and Senate allocated $39.6 billion in base funding for the department, which is $111 million below the fiscal 2011 level, according to a House-Senate conference report released on Dec. 16.

The bill provides $400 million for the Border Security Fencing, Infrastructure and Technology account, which is $173 million less than the fiscal 2011 allocation. However, the conference report notes that because of delays in construction there is an unobligated prior-year balance available of nearly $374 million.

At the same time, the lawmakers stipulated that $60 million would be withheld until DHS officials deliver a more detailed expenditure plan.

"While it is clear that the Border Patrol requires additional tools and technology to execute its critical mission, concerns remain about the proposed Arizona Border Technology Plan and the administration's slow execution of funds provided in this appropriation,” the conference report said.

Furthermore, because of DHS' mixed record constructing a fixed-tower video surveillance system in Arizona as part of the SBInet program, the House and Senate members were worried about DHS’ plans to purchase additional integrated fixed tower systems in Arizona.

The fiscal 2012 funding also includes $20 million for the northern border and $40 million for tactical communications. The funding is to pay for development and deployment, operations and maintenance, and program management.

Also in the new spending law, the Science and Technology Directorate’s funding would be reduced to $668 million, a reduction of $160 million from the fiscal 2011 enacted level. It also is a cut of $508 million from the president’s requested level.

Among the science and technology accounts affected by cutbacks include testing and evaluation, transition and university programs. Research and development would receive $266 million, down from a requested level of $660 million.

The new appropriations package also makes cuts into state and local first responder grant programs, mostly administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Overall, the grant programs would receive $2.4 billion in fiscal 2012, down from $3.4 billion enacted in fiscal 2011.

Despite those cutbacks, some of the DHS programs are seeing increases.

Cybersecurity efforts are targeted for increased funding to $443 million, up from the fiscal 2011 enacted level of $363 million. Network security deployment, global cybersecurity management, critical infrastructure cyber protection and awareness, and business operations are among the accounts to receive a boost.

The DHS Office of Health Affairs will see its funding rise to $168 million, which is $28 million more than the fiscal 2011 enacted level. Included in the total is $114 million for the BioWatch biological threat surveillance program, an increase of $13 million from last year’s enacted level.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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