House bill would boost emergency preparedness funding

DHS spending bill further trims Deepwater funds

A House subcommittee has approved a $36.3 billion spending bill for the Homeland Security Department for fiscal 2008 that reduces Deepwater funding and adds substantially more money for equipment, training and planning grants to state and local agencies, ports and rail systems.

The House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee on May 18 approved by voice vote the discretionary spending bill for DHS providing $2.1 million, or 5 percent, more than what was requested by the White House.

It is the first spending bill for fiscal 2008 to be marked up by a House Appropriations subcommittee. A full committee vote is expected when Congress returns from recess.

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 from $836 million requested by the president. The Coast Guard has tightened oversight over the program, which has been hit by allegations of mismanagement, delays and overspending in recent months.

The bulk of the increase for the department goes to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which takes over operation of most of the department's preparedness-related grant programs next year. It would receive $7.1 billion under the legislation versus $5 billion requested by the president.

State and local grant programs would receive $3.1 billion in grants in 2008, up from $2.5 billion appropriated this year and from $1.7 billion requested by the White House. Grants for port security would rise to $400 million, and rail security, also to $400 million, up from $210 million and $175 million, respectively, requested by the president.

"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 Chair David E. 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 also reduces spending for science and technology, headquarters management, transportation threat assessment and credentialing and several other programs. According to Price, it cuts $1.2 billion below the fiscal 2007 levels and $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 expenditure of $1.9 billion is to be delayed until the department submits expenditure plans.

The legislation also requires that 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 include:
  • $1 billion for the Secure Border Initiative
  • $462 million for the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology
  • $777 million for science and technology, down by $22 million from requested amount
  • $922 million for headquarters projects, down by $72 million from requested amount
  • $300 million for Emergency Management Performance Grants, up by $100 million from requested
  • $800 million for Fire Act grants
  • $50 million for Real ID grants
  • $50 million for interoperable communication grants
  • $132 million for TSA threat assessment and credentialing, down by $28 million from requested amount

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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