Friday, June 20, 2008

Congress Working on DHS Appropriations Bills

In this election shortened legislative year the budget season starts early. Both the House and the Senate are in the process of crafting their budget bills for the Department of Homeland Security. Last week the news came out of the House Appropriations Committee. This week the news comes from the Senate Appropriations Committee. So far the news is encouraging; there are no discussions of budget cuts for chemical facility security programs. In fact, both houses intend to appropriate more money for DHS than the President requested.

Budget Increases

Last week the House Appropriations Committee announced that it intended to increase the DHS discretionary budget by about $2 Billion to $39.9 Billion. The bulk of this extra money would go into various grant programs to state and local governments. The biggest increase goes to State homeland security grants, restoring the $750 million that the administration had transferred to other DHS programs.

This week the Senate Appropriations Committee added almost $2 Billion more than the House brining the discretionary spending to $41.3 Billion. The Senate also increased money going to the grant programs, but also added some monies to a variety of specific programs within the DHS budget. Of interest to readers of this blog is that they propose to double the President’s increase in the budget for ‘Chemical Regulatory Activities’ bringing that total to $75 Million for 2009.

Both of the Houses are writing their own budget bills. This will mean an inevitable conference to iron out the differences. There is no telling what will happen in conference.

Program Add-ons

Keeping in mind that the current CFATS regulations were the result of insertion of Section 550 into the 2007 Appropriations Bill, we are well aware that it is not unusual for Congress to slip new programs and modifications to current programs into the Appropriations Bill. Chairman Thompson is making no bones about adding five recently passed house bills to the house appropriations bill. Those bills are:

  • HR 1333 – Directing a study of the use of the Civil Air Patrol to support DHS operations.
  • HR 2631 – Directing an increase in efforts to develop nuclear forensics capabilities.
  • HR 4179 – Establishing a new redress procedure for No Fly List errors.
  • HR 4749 – Providing authority for the current Bombing Prevention Office within DHS.
  • HR 5982 – Directing a study of the use of biometric identification for airport workers.

Neither bill is yet available on Thomas.LOC.Gov so there is no telling what other goodies have already been added to these bills. Two things to watch for: reauthorization of the CFATS program passed October 2009 and the addition of IST requirements to the current CFATS regulations. Either, or both, of these provisions could be added to one of these bills to avoid a big fight over the passing of HR 5577 this summer.

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