House may take DHS to the woodshed

Unfinished work drives bill to strip $800 million from new budget

The House Appropriations Committee's Homeland Security Subcommittee sent a clear message last week to the Homeland Security Department: Ignore Congress at your own risk.

Fed up with missing reports and unimplemented programs, subcommittee members unanimously approved a draconian funding bill that would cut and withhold about $800 million from DHS' fiscal 2006 budget.

"The department has been a reluctant partner and has ignored requests for information and direction to move expeditiously in the implementation of important national policies and goals," said Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.), the subcommittee's chairman, in a statement. "The department will find that the lack of information has cost them. It's a simple equation: No information equals no money."

The subcommittee would cut about $487 million because DHS has not performed certain actions. More than $310 million would be held until department officials submit major reports and enact important new initiatives.

DHS spokeswoman Valerie Smith said department officials will continue to work as quickly as possible to meet reporting requirements. She declined to comment further on the bill but added that DHS officials have asked lawmakers to prioritize the reports they want to receive.

Traditionally, lawmakers have expressed their displeasure with agencies by tightening federal purse strings, said Alan Balutis, president and chief executive officer of Input's government strategies unit. Balutis said the bill is "quite serious, perhaps the most serious I have seen in many years," but not out of line with the severity of the situation or Rogers' tenacity.

"Rogers is a pretty tough guy, and when he feels like you're ignoring him, boy, you know it," he said.

Balutis noted that DHS still has plenty of time to submit the missing reports and take other remedial action before the new fiscal year starts Oct. 1.

The full House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to start reviewing the bill this week.

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