By Laura Spadanuta, Assistant Editor
The Department of Homeland Security's 2009 budget requests include increased security funding for border patrol, ports, critical infrastructure, and other initiatives.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff outlined the department's 2009 budget requests in a speech yesterday. The DHS funding requests comprise a portion of President Bush's $3.1 trillion budget which was submitted to Congress on Monday. The $50.5 billion budget for DHS represents an increase of 6.8 percent over 2008 (excluding emergency supplemental funds).
The largest DHS increase requested was $442.4 million more to hire, train, and equip 2,200 new Border Patrol Agents. Chertoff said that the crackdown on the borders has lead to increased violence against border patrol agents. "That includes the recent killing of an agent struck by a vehicle fleeing into Mexico. Over the past year, violence against the Border Patrol increased 31 percent, and in some sectors almost 700 percent," he said.
Also notable in the area of border protection was a request of $140 million to support U.S Customs and Border Protection's rollout of the DHS Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), which is set to start at land and sea ports after June 1, 2009. WHTI requires that travelers present acceptable documents for entry into the country.
Another initiative Chertoff highlighted was in the area of protecting the nation from dangerous goods: $157 million for the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office's Radiation Portal Monitor Program. Chertoff said this is an effort to get close to 100 percent scanning for radiation of every container and all the cargo that comes into the United States from other countries.
Critical Infrastructure is down for more than $1 billion in funding, with the bulk being $1.3 billion to counter improvised explosive device threats, and $293.5 million for the National Cyber Security Division to deploy its EINSTEIN system on Federal networks to protect against cyberthreats.
The Coast Guard funding request is for $990 million, much of which would go to the oft-criticized Deepwater program . The Coast Guard released a statement that stated it is "pursuing a modernization and transformation initiative to improve training, resource allocation, financial management, risk management and enhance unity of effort across multiple layers of government."
Another major request was for $209 million for FEMA's Disaster Workforce, which Chertoff says will transition on-call emergency response employees from temporary to permanent employees and create a core of experienced first responders who could be deployed anywhere in the country.
The President's budget proposal immediately came in for criticism from various interest groups.
One group not satisfied with the president's budget request was the Airports Council International. It released a statement criticizing the requests to cut $765 million from the Federal Aviation Administration's Airport Improvement Program . “Without increased funding, airports cannot fulfill their obligation to the flying public: to operate safe, secure and efficient facilities,” said ACI-NA President Greg Principato.
The American Public Transportation Association also expressed disappointment. The group points out that the request of "$175 million for the Transit Security Grant Program, is $225 million less than the $400 million that Congress appropriated for transit security for FY 2008 and the proposed $175 million is significantly less than the $750 million that was authorized for FY 2009 in H.R.1, the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act of 2007, that President Bush signed into law on August 3, 2007."
APTA also stated that the administration did not did not request funding to develop transit security standards or the Public Transit Information Sharing Analysis Center (ISAC). The group says both programs "are two important national efforts that could significantly enhance transit security for a minimal cost."
Additionally, the Grocery Manufacturers Association stated in a release that its $32 million funding request "does little more than cover the cost of inflation and falls short of what is ultimately needed to make certain FDA has the tools it needs to get the job done."
The next step in the budget process is for the House of Representatives and the Senate to draft budget resolutions, usually done by early April.