Administration Unwilling to Fight for Homeland Resources

WASHINGTON – Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., said the Department of Homeland Security funding bill, approved by Congress late Wednesday, denies the department and its state and local partners the resources they need to fulfill their responsibilities to protect the American public from future terrorist attack.

“You can’t win a war without troops, technology and supplies,” Lieberman said. “Yet the Department of Homeland Security is being asked to win the war on terrorism at home with troops that are stretched too thin. This package falls far short because this Administration is unwilling to fight for what it really takes to secure our homeland.” Lieberman noted in particular that the Administration is failing its most vital allies on homeland security – state and local first responders. The conference report provides roughly $4 billion to help police, fire fighters, and emergency medical personnel. Compare that to the recommendation of an Independent Task Force of the Council on Foreign Relations, led by former Senator Warren Rudman and former White House terrorism advisor Richard Clarke, which said first responders need an additional $98 billion over five years for training and equipment necessary to meet the nation’s security needs. Among other areas of neglect:

  • Border Security: The PATRIOT Act authorizes tripling the number of customs and immigration personnel to secure the Northern border. Yet current staffing is well short of that level, leaving our border dangerously porous. Nor are there sufficient border patrol agents and facilities as authorized by the Enhanced Border Security Act. The President signed both bills, but did not ask for enough money to fulfill their mandates. This conference report reflects that failure and will not meet our needs at the border. Although it will fund some additional border patrol agents along the Northern Border, it falls far short of funding all the border inspectors and facilities called for by Congress.
  • Port security: Expert upon expert has identified the nation’s ports as a dangerously weak link in the nation’s security. Closing the gap is a critical, and expensive, task. The Administration’s own Coast Guard estimated it will cost $4.4 billion just to upgrade the physical security of the ports. Last year, when a limited amount of grant funding was available, the Administration received close to $1 billion in requests. Yet, the Administration requested no money for port security grants in FY 04, and this conference report provides only $125 million for these grants. Nor will the Coast Guard have sufficient resources to review and approve vessel and port security plans, as it is required to under the Maritime Transportation Security Act. Other aspects of port security are also dangerously underfunded, including efforts to inspect or otherwise secure the contents of containers entering the country and the Deepwater Initiative to modernize the Coast Guard fleet.
  • Transportation Security: Although the Transportation Security Administration is falling short in its mission to secure all modes of transportation, it will receive $4.6 billion – significantly less than in the current fiscal year. This despite the fact that TSA is struggling to keep up with its efforts to secure passenger aviation, and has not yet begun to make serious inroads on other modes of transportation such as rail, mass transit, and maritime. The conference report provides only $263 million for maritime and land security programs – an amount that will leave many areas of non-aviation transportation far too vulnerable. On mass transit, for instance, the U.S. Conference of Mayors reports that many of the cities served by the “highest risk” transit systems are not receiving federal aid to help secure these systems. A December 2002 GAO report identified mass transit as a possible target for terrorists, and stated that “insufficient funding is the most significant challenge in making…transit systems as safe and secure as possible.” Yet the conference report sets aside no money for transit security and training.
  • Print