Bush threatens veto of DHS appropriations bill

The Bush administration has denounced the Senate’s Homeland Security Department Appropriations bill for its irresponsible spending levels, and President Bush vowed to veto the measure if Congress approves it.

The administration said the DHS Appropriations Act of 2008, which the Senate Appropriations Committee approved last month, exceeds the president’s fiscal 2008 budget request by $2.2 billion.

“The administration has asked that Congress demonstrate a path to live within the president’s top line and cover the excess spending in this bill through reductions elsewhere,” administration officials said in a statement released July 25.

Although they welcomed the bill’s call for fully funding the president’s $11.8 billion request for border security and interior enforcement initiatives, officials objected to the measure’s increase of $1.8 billion for state and local homeland security grant programs.

“Rather than appropriating additional unjustified dollars, Congress should work together with the administration to ensure that existing dollars are being appropriately spent,” according to the statement.

The administration opposed the bill’s overall spending levels and objected to some program reductions, such as the measure’s $100 million spending cut to the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program, which monitors foreign visitors to the United States.

“This shortfall will deny DHS and the FBI the ability to search each other’s databases using a full 10 fingerprints to assist with terrorism and criminal investigations,” the statement reads.

On the management front, the administration objected to the fact that the spending provided only $5 million toward Bush’s $15 million request for a workforce system for DHS. Failure to fully fund the system would “severely impact support to basic human resources services,” according to the statement.

The administration also objected to a provision that would require DHS to revise its departmental guidance regarding relations with the Government Accountability Office. GAO has argued that DHS continues to be unresponsive to oversight requests. The administration said the provision violates the separation-of-powers principle.

In the technology arena, the administration criticized the spending bill for not fully funding Next Generation Network priority telecommunications services. Inadequate funding could result in reduced coverage, according to the statement.

Finally, the administration opposed the committee’s plan to shift $3.5 billion from defense appropriations to nondefense spending.

The move “risks diminishing America’s warfighting capacity,” according to the statement.

Tarallo is a freelance writer in Washington.

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