Senate appropriators approve FY 2014 homeland security spending bill
By Mickey McCarter
The Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday approved, in a 21-9 vote, a fiscal year (FY) 2014 budget bill for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that would reduce spending at the department for the fourth year in a row — although DHS would get slightly more than requested by the White House.
The appropriations bill would fund DHS with a total of $46.4 billion, down $493 million from FY 2013 when discounting emergency supplemental spending. The DHS bill would provide a total of $45 billion for discretionary programs, according to Senate calculations, which include $227 million for overseas contingency operations at the US Coast Guard (USCG) and about $5.6 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (as adjusted by the Budget Control Act [Public Law 112-25].
Outside of those contingency funds, DHS net discretionary spending in FY 2014 would total $39.1 billion, $72.3 million above the White House request.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), chairman of the committee, praised the bill as one that responsibly funds homeland security priorities. Mikulski singled out spending on homeland security grants and cybersecurity for specific praise.
“The homeland security bill provides $1.5 billion in much-needed funding to help State and local first responders prepare for and respond to all hazards and emergencies, from terrorism to natural disasters. I’m proud that this bill sustains this critical funding for preparedness grants to support training and exercises that are critical to success when we must respond to incidents like the Boston bombings. These grants also support port security and transit security. And the bill provides $675 million for Firefighter Assistance Grants that support our fire departments, so they can replace worn equipment and hire new fire fighters,” Mikulski said in a statement.
In choosing to fund specific grant programs, the appropriators rejected a White House proposal to combine 16 distinct grant programs into a consolidated National Grant Preparedness Program (NGPG). DHS officials argued the overall NGPG would improve DHS resources to assist the country as a whole in developing capabilities under the National Preparedness Goal and thus better measure a return on investment for grants funds. Lawmakers and many first responders, however, voiced fears that combining grant funding would result in loss of specific capabilities for specific disciplines like port security or transportation security.
Mikulski added, “The bill also provides critical funding as we face the threats of cybercrime and cyberterrorism.”
Under the FY 2014 bill, DHS cybersecurity efforts would receive about $804 million, up $48 million from FY 2013. That amount includes $393 million for intrusion detection on civilian federal networks; $166 million for monitoring and diagnostics on civilian federal networks; and about $126 million for cybersecurity education.
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations homeland security subcommittee, hailed the bill for protecting the USCG budget.
“From Hurricane Sandy to the Boston Marathon bombings, we have been reminded during the last year that we must remain vigilant and prepared for both natural and man-made disasters and other threats to our homeland,” Landrieu said in a statement. “The investments we make today will determine the outcomes we experience tomorrow. This bill makes those critical investments, as well as restoring critical funding for the Coast Guard that the administration proposed to cut in its budget request. These cuts would have severely hampered the replacement of the service’s aging assets — which has already been delayed for too long — and threatened the lifesaving, law enforcement, border security and other missions that depend upon them.”
The Coast Guard would receive about $10 billion, including $8.6 billion in discretionary spending, down $639 million from FY 2013. The bill requests White House requests to cut 850 USCG billets and to move 1,050 USCG reservists off active duty.
The Transportation Security Administration would receive about $7.3 billion, down $210 million from FY 2013. Appropriators rejected a White House request to increase the aviation security passenger fee. The FY 2014 spending bill would give TSA about $189 million for explosive detection technologies for passenger screening and $106 million for Secure Flight. The DHS budget also would receive $25 million to sustain the Federal Flight Deck Officer Program.
Under the bill, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) would receive $12.4 billion, up about $54 million from FY 2013. With that money, CBP would support 21,370 Border Patrol agents and 21,775 CBP officers. But CBP also would get money to hire 1,850 additional CBP officers to staff US ports of entry.
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would receive about $5.4 billion in the bill, down $339 million from FY 2013. ICE would get $2.65 billion for detention and removal operations, $60 million above the White House request, which would support 31,800 detection beds. ICE also would get $24 million for alternatives to detention, increasing illegal aliens in the program by more than 8,000, lawmakers said.
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