WASHINGTON – Calling the Bush Administration’s homeland security budget for next year “less than meets the eye and far less than is truly needed,” Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., Tuesday proposed additional funding above the $47 billion provided for in the President’s Fiscal Year 2005 budget.
In a letter to Budget Committee Chairman Don Nickels, R-Okla., and Ranking Member Kent Conrad, D-N.D., Lieberman pushed for a $14 billion supplement to homeland security monies, with almost half of that sum going to first responders.
The administration’s budget “does represent some new resources for homeland security, but the increase is less than meets the eye and far less than is truly needed,” Lieberman said in his annual assessment of budget issues pertaining to programs under the Committee’s jurisdiction. “For example, discretionary spending for DHS (the Department of Homeland Security) increases only about 4 percent and would essentially maintain the status quo, rather than allowing for critical new security initiatives. Some key programs – most notably aid to first responders, our homeland security troops – will actually be cut.”
Lieberman criticized the Administration’s proposed 31 percent, government-wide slash in money for first responder programs and proposed spending an additional $6.6 billion in that area. Of that sum, $4 billion is needed for first responder preparedness, he said, including interoperable communications equipment.
Lieberman also called for $1 billion to fully fund the SAFER Act, which provides grants to firefighters, and $1.35 billion to restore proposed cuts to three important law enforcement grant programs – the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant, the Byrne Grants Program, and the Community Oriented Policing Services Program.
Lieberman said the Administration used an “accounting anomaly” to make it appear as if it were proposing $2.5 billion for BioShield, the bioterror countermeasures program, when in fact, that sum covers the program’s funding needs for the next four years. And while the Administration touts increases to improve bioterror surveillance, it does so at the expense of existing programs. For example, $105 million in bioterrorism preparedness grants to state and local health departments is eliminated. Another $39 million to help hospitals develop surge capacity is also cut.
“On closer inspection,” Lieberman said, “there is little new spending, and the budget actually cuts key existing initiatives to help defend against a bioterror attack.”
Below is a link to a copy of the letter.