House subcommittee approves $36.3B spending bill for DHS

A House subcommittee has approved a measure with $36.3 billion in funding for the Homeland Security Department in fiscal 2008. The bill also would reduce funding for the Deepwater program and add substantially more money for equipment, training and planning grants to state and local agencies, ports and rail systems.

On M ay 18, the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee approved by voice vote a discretionary spending bill for DHS. The measure is the first spending bill for fiscal 2008 to be marked up by a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee.

Under the bill, the Coast Guard’s Integrated Deepwater Systems vessel and systems modernization program would receive $698 million, down from $1.1 billion this year and also from the $836 million requested by the Bush administration. The Coast Guard has tightened oversight of the program, which in recent months has been hit by allegations of mismanagement, delays and overspending.

The bulk of the increase for DHS would go to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which takes over operation of most of the department’s preparedness-related grant programs next year. That agency would receive $7.1 billion under the legislation compared with the $5 billion requested by President Bush.

State and local grant programs would receive $3.1 billion in 2008, up from the $2.5 billion appropriated for this fiscal year and from the $1.7 billion requested by administration.

“The bill provides critically needed funding to our states and communities to confront not only the threat of terrorist activity, but also natural disasters and the emergency situations they must deal with every day,” said Subcommittee Chairman David Price (D-N.C). “Homeland security requires a faithful partnership among the federal government, states and local communities. This bill honors that partnership.”

The legislation would also reduce spending for science and technology, headquarters management, transportation threat assessment, credentialing and several other programs. According to Price, it would cut $1.2 billion from fiscal 2007 levels and would be $244 million below the requested amounts for programs and activities that are not performing well, or for which increased or level funding has not been adequately justified. The subcommittee also instructed that spending some $1.9 billion is to be delayed until the department submits expenditure plans.

The legislation would also require grant and contract funds be awarded through full and open competitive processes, except when other mechanisms are required by statute. “This approach creates a level playing field and also ensures that there are no congressional or administration earmarks in the bill,” Price said.

Other programs cited in the legislation would include funding at :
  • $1 billion for the Secure Border Initiative.
  • $462 million for U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology.
  • $777 million for science and technology, down by $22 million from the administration's request..
  • $922 million for headquarters projects, down by $72 million from the amount requested.
  • $300 million for Emergency Management Performance Grants, up by $100 million from the level requested..
  • $800 million for Fire Act grants.
  • $50 million in grants for the Real ID program.
  • $50 million for interoperable communications grants.
  • And, $132 million for threat assessment and credentialing, down by $28 million from spending level requested.
 Alice Lipowicz writes for Washington Technology, an 1105 Government Information Group publication.

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