Friday, March 12, 2010

Lieberman on DHS Budget

Earlier this week Sen. Lieberman (I, CT), the Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Operations Committee sent his annual letter to the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee presenting his views on the President’s budget request. There were only two areas in the letter that addressed issues of specific interest to the chemical security community. Sen. Lieberman supported the President’s requested increase for the TSA surface transportation security program. While most of this was directed at passenger rail protection it continued funding for last year’s planned increases for surface transportation security inspectors. Part of their job will be the enforcement of the TSA’s freight rail security program. The other area of interest to our community is the funding for the chemical security program. Lieberman supports the budget request for $105 million for the chemical security program (both CFATS and the pending ammonium nitrate regulations). Specifically the letter states:
“I strongly urge the Committee to provide at least that amount for the program. The Department is currently entering the most intensive phase of the program – reviewing the proposed security plans of the riskiest chemical facilities and conducting site inspections. It is critical the Department continue to receive adequate funds to conduct this work and acquire additional expertise with which to evaluate and advise on security at the varied enterprises that use and store dangerous chemicals.”
Interestingly, there is no mention in Lieberman’s letter of the President’s request for another one-year extension of the current CFATS authorization. Of course, last year there was little or no discussion of a similar extension request that was ultimately included in the FY 2010 DHS budget. While the Chairman’s views of the DHS budget do not control how the Appropriations Committee will write the actual legislation, the fact that he is actively supporting the Administration on these areas almost ensures that these provisions will make it into the bill drafted by the Appropriations Committee.

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