Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff testified yesterday in front of the Senate Committe on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs yesterday to explain his department's fiscal year 2009 budget requests. He encountered slight praise and prolonged criticism from several members of the committee, according to The National Journal. DHS' budget request was submitted earlier this month and summarized in a recent Daily Headlines post. The $50.5 billion budget for DHS represents an increase of 6.8 percent over 2008 (excluding emergency supplemental funds).
During the hearing, Chertoff reiterated the five goals of DHS:
Goal 1. Protect our Nation from Dangerous People
Goal 2. Protect our Nation from Dangerous Goods
Goal 3. Protect Critical Infrastructure
Goal 4. Build a Nimble, Effective Emergency Response System and a Culture of Preparedness
Goal 5. Strengthen and Unify DHS Operations and Management
The budget includes proposals and initiatives that fulfill those goals, such as increasing the number of border patrol agents (goal 1), providing the latest equipment to prevent chemical and biological attacks (goal 3), and firefighter grants (goal 4).
Much of the criticism surrounded what Congress members referred to as budget cuts for state and local homeland security grants. However, Chertoff reportedly countered that the amounts were the same as FY 2008, but that Congress had increased those grants.
Additionally, Chertoff was questioned about topics outside of the budget requests. He faced inquiry about recent findings that FEMA-provided trailers to homeland Hurricane Katrina victims had such high levels of formaldehyde fumes that they were unsafe for use. Chertoff was questioned over DHS' failure to warn people about the trailers or to take a swift mitigating action.
Chertoff received praise for efforts made following recent tornados and floods in Minnesota and Arkansas. The National Journal reports that Chertoff received a "mix of praise and complaints" on other topics, including securing borders, protecting dangerous materials, and cyber attacks.