DHS to get hefty boost in funding bill

The House is scheduled today to begin considering a final agreement on the fiscal 2007 Homeland Security Department spending bill, which increases the department's budget to $34.8 billion ? a $2.3 billion increase, or 7 percent, over its current level.

Last night, House and Senate negotiators completed a conference report on the bill that paves the way for votes on the measure in each chamber.

The legislation provides, among its provisions, $5.2 billion for the Secure Border Initiative, including $1.2 billion for border fencing, vehicle barriers, technology and infrastructure, said John Scofield, House Appropriations Committee spokesman. Nearly all of the $1.2 billion is classified as an emergency appropriation.

The conference report approves $973 million for the Science & Technology directorate. Biological countermeasures research and development would rise to $350 million. The Office of Interoperability and Compatibility would receive $27 million while cybersecurity would receive $20 million.

The total also includes $481 million for the Domestic Nuclear Detection office and $362 million for the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology. That is less than the $399 million requested by the White House for U.S. Visit.

The conference agreement sets a $349 million budget for the Office of the Chief Information Officer, including $61 million for IT services, $89 million for security activities, $86 million for the wireless program and $32 million for the Homeland Secure Data Network.

The conference report preserves a delay of up to 17 months for implementing the deadline for the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. The program, which will require Americans, Canadians and Mexicans to show a passport or biometric "pass card" on entry into the United States, will go into effect in June 2009 under the provision, although it could be earlier if certain conditions are met.

The goal of the postponement is to ensure that the technology is appropriate, Scofield said. DHS officials in recent months have been promoting a long-range radio frequency identification card that could be read at up to 60 feet, to speed flow of traffic at the borders, while the State Department preferred a short-range form of RFID for the card.

The provision authorizing the delay was included in the conference agreement earlier this week, followed by reports that GOP House Speaker Denis Hastert, R-Ill, had stripped it out. In final negotiations yesterday, the delay provision was reinstated in the conference agreement.

Wilson P. Dizard III, a senior writer with Washington Technology's sister publication, Government Computer News, contributed to this story.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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