House passes DHS funding bill

The House last week by a 400-5 margin passed a $32 billion fiscal 2005 appropriations bill for the Homeland Security Department while the Senate will consider a similar version of the DHS spending bill soon.

The Senate Appropriations Committee June 17 approved S. 2537 that includes $32 billion in discretionary spending, nearly $900 million more than what the president requested and more than $2.8 billion more than this year's level.

Among the bill's major funded programs involving technology:

The U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) program, an entry/exist system tracking foreigners, would receive $340 million to continue development.

Customs and Border Protection would get more than $5 billion, including $126 million for the Container Security Initiative, $64 million for sensor and surveillance technology and nearly $450 million for automation modernization.

The Coast Guard has been earmarked about $7.5 billion, including more than $1 billion for Deepwater, a program to modernize its fleet.

The Office of State and Local Government Coordination and Preparedness would get $3.75 billion for various grant programs

The Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection directorate would get $875.5 million, including nearly $350 million for critical infrastructure assessments, protection programs and data sharing; $140.7 million for telecommunications activities; and $67 million for cybersecurity activities.

The Science and Technology Directorate would get more than $1 billion for basic and applied research, prototype development and buying systems to mitigate effects of weapons of mass destruction, including $346 million to develop biological countermeasures and surveillance, $75 million for rapid prototyping and nearly $70 for university programs.

The House bill (HR 4567) provides similar increases for many DHS programs. In a prepared statement, Rep. Jim Turner (D-Texas), the top democrat in the Select Homeland Security Committee, said the bill falls short in several areas, including insufficient funding for detecting nuclear material at all ports of entry, rail, public transit, and port security, and installing explosive detection systems at airports.

In other news, the Faster and Smarter Funding for First Responders Act of 2004 [H.R. 3266], a bipartisan bill that would speed up funding for first responders based on threat assessment, was reported out of the Judiciary Committee last week. Earlier this year, the Select Homeland Security Committee passed the bill.

"Under the bill reported by the Judiciary Committee, the percentage of dollars that will be awarded based on terrorism risk analysis will be increased significantly, from roughly 36 percent today to more than 87 percent," said Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.), who chairs the select committee.

"In dollar terms, this means that more than $1 billion in additional counter-terrorism funds each year now will be allocated on the basis of actual terrorism risks, rather than arbitrary formulas," Cox said.

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