DHS budget to grow by 10 percent

The proposed fiscal 2005 budget for the Department of Homeland Security, released Monday, includes substantial new funding for aviation security, biodefense and state and local first response.

The budget would provide $5.3 billion for the Transportation Security Administration, an increase of $890 million over 2004 funding. It also would provide $3.6 billion for state and local first responders through the Office of Domestic Preparedness.

The department's proposed budget for fiscal 2005 is $40.2 billion, a 10 percent increase over fiscal 2004.

"Protecting the homeland continues to be a critical priority for this administration," said Tom Ridge, DHS secretary. "Increases in the 2005 budget will allow us to expand and improve projects and programs as well as build new barriers to terrorists."

The key themes of the department's budget include strengthening border and port security, enhancing biodefense, improving aviation security, enhancing immigration security and enforcement, supporting state and local first responders and increasing the department's preparedness and response capacity.

The department plans to expand the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program, known as U.S. Visit, to cover land-border crossings and more seaports, Ridge said. The proposed budget provides $340 million for U.S. Visit, a $12 million increase over 2004 funding.

The U.S. Visit program is to expedite the arrival and departure of legitimate travelers, while making entry into the country more difficult for those who would harm it. To date, about 900,000 legitimate passengers have been processed through the system, and 89 criminals have been matched, Ridge said.

Because of the ongoing concern over aviation security, TSA would receive an additional $890 million to continue improving screening quality and efficiency, Ridge said. This marks a nearly 20 percent increase over 2004 funding.

In addition, the proposed budget would provide TSA with $85 million for air cargo security. Its Science and Technology Directorate would get $61 million to accelerate more effective technologies to counter the threat of portable anti-aircraft missiles.

DHS and the Health and Human Services Department will provide $274 million to fund a Bio-Surveillance Program initiative to protect the nation against bioterrorism and strengthen public health infrastructure, Ridge said.

In addition, the proposed budget provides $2.5 billion for Project BioShield, a 186 percent increase over 2004 funding. BioShield allows the government to prepurchase critically needed vaccines and medications for biodefense. The program also seeks to encourage development of necessary medical countermeasures to chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear attack.

To improve biosurveillance, DHS' Science and Technology Directorate will receive $65 million to enhance environmental monitoring activities, bringing the total fiscal 2005 investment in this area to $118 million. A key component will be expansion and deployment of next-generation technologies related to the BioWatch Program, a biosurveillance warning system.

In a related effort, the Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate will receive $11 million to integrate in real time biosurveillance data collected from sensors throughout the country, and fuse this data with information from health and agricultural surveillance and other terrorist-threat information from the law enforcement and intelligence communities.

The proposed budget allocates $864.6 million for information analysis and infrastructure protection, a 3 percent increase over 2004 funding. A primary focuses will be on threat determination and assessment. The proposed budget includes $79.8 million for this by expanding the capabilities of the National Cyber Security Division, which is responsible for enhancing cybersecurity through a public-private partnership.

The information analysis and infrastructure protection funding includes $1.9 million for expansion of so-called cyberexercises. The funding provides for simulations to test critical infrastructures for vulnerability to cyberattack.

Unlike physical infrastructure security, cybersecurity cuts across all sectors of the economy, so it is one of the top priorities for the department and the administration, Ridge said.

The proposed budget also includes $3.5 billion for state and local first response that will be administered through the Office of Domestic Preparedness. The state and local funding includes $1.4 billion for the Urban Area Security Initiative, which is double the fiscal 2004 funding for the program. The initiative seeks to provide additional funding for high-threat urban areas.

To promote wireless communications interoperability, DHS' Science and Technology Directorate will receive $22 million to establish standards and conduct pilot projects.

"When you are preparing a budget, nothing helps more than getting a raise," Ridge said. "For homeland security, a raise means we can take additional steps to increase and improve measures that we already have in place, and add to them programs that rely on the most advanced technology to keep us safe."

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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