Homeland agencies' funding mixed

Although the Homeland Security Department represents a major consolidation and a new beginning, several of the agencies going into the mix — the Coast Guard and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, for example — will maintain a spirit of uniqueness and will continue work on projects that are already under way.

Overall, the Bush administration is asking Congress for $36.2 billion for the department in fiscal 2004. The spending plan for information technology calls for $3.8 billion, which includes $800 million in new money.

In the face of competing resources, however, funding for some key initiatives has waned. And a lot of the new money will go toward getting the organization off the ground.

The fiscal 2004 proposal earmarks $5.6 billion for the Coast Guard — up $500 million from the fiscal 2003 request — with $134 million to further develop a maritime 911 system, a $44 million boost.

However, funding for the massive Deepwater modernization, which is replacing an aging fleet of cutters, aircraft, sensors and the supporting command, control, communications and surveillance systems, stayed steady at $500 million.

In the past, members of Congress have questioned their ability to sustain the program's spending needs over time. With such a tall order, the Coast Guard is looking at Deepwater as a long-term project. It could extend the contract, a landmark deal potentially worth $17 billion, up to 30 years.

Like Deepwater, the Transportation Security Administration would not come out ahead under the budget proposal. The Bush administration is asking for $4.8 billion for TSA — a $500 million decrease from last year's request.

Despite that drop, financial support for some of the agency's biggest projects rose. The request includes more money for an intelligence system that will perform background checks and risk assessments on airline passengers.

TSA's billion-dollar effort to build its IT infrastructure would get $234 million for 2004 — a $12.3 million increase. And funding for an effort to equip all transportation workers with smart cards more than quadrupled to $127 million.

FEMA's flood map modernization program took a hit, receiving $200 million — $150 million less than the fiscal 2003 request.

With its ties to the emergency community, the agency likely will be involved with the Bush administration's first responder initiative — $500 million in grants to provide firefighters, law enforcement personnel and other crisis workers with such resources as preparedness equipment and technical assistance.

The proposal also includes $3.2 billion for disaster relief and $1.5 million — the same amount as last year — for FEMA's e-government initiative, DisasterHelp.gov, a one-stop portal for emergency preparedness and response information.

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