Senate passes DHS budget bill

The Senate has passed a $30.8 billion budget bill for the Homeland Security Department for fiscal 2006 that would increase spending on numerous information technology and technology-related programs.

Senators approved their version of the DHS budget by a vote of 96-1 last week. It would provide $1.2 billion more than President Bush’s budget request but less than the $34.2 billion bill the House approved in May. Both bills now head to conference.

The bill includes $870 million for the Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate, which is responsible for cybersecurity and critical infrastructure protection. Cybersecurity efforts would get $73.3 million while $142.6 million would go to telecommunications for national security and emergency preparedness.

To protect the nation’s critical infrastructure, $126.6 million would go to create partnerships and share information with critical infrastructure owners, $60 million to identify and mitigate risks and vulnerabilities and $91.4 million to develop and implement protections.

The U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) program, which screens foreign nationals entering and leaving the country to identify potential terrorists, would receive $340 million.

The department will also require first-time US-VISIT participants to give 10 fingerprints as a biometric identifier. On subsequent visits, they can give two fingerprints, as they do now.

Out of a total of nearly $6 billion, the Customs and Border Protection agency would get $458 million to modernize and automate its procedures and $138.8 million to expand the Container Security Initiative.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency would receive $50.2 million for automation modernization from its total of $3.8 billion.

The Transportation Security Administration, with $5.1 billion total, would get $180 million to buy explosive detection and trace systems. Of that, $50 million would go toward next-generation systems. Transportation vetting and credentialing would get $75 million, and air cargo security would get $50 million.

The Senate would give the U.S. Coast Guard $905.6 million for Deepwater, the agency’s massive retooling and renovation plan.

The Office of State and Local Government Cooperation and Preparedness would get $50 million for technology transfers and $40 million to enable states to enact the Real ID Act.

The Citizenship and Immigration Services agency would receive $80 million to reduce application processing backlogs.

The Science and Technology Directorate would get $20.9 million for rapid prototyping projects. It would receive $16.7 million to identify and detect cyberthreats and $15 million for interoperable communications.

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