WASHINGTON – After close examination of the Bush Administration’s Fiscal Year 2004 budget, Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., has outlined several key areas of worrisome under funding, most conspicuously in the homeland security budget. And he proposed more realistic funding levels.
In a letter sent out March 3, 2003, to Budget Committee Chairman Don Nickles, R-Okla., and Ranking Member Kent Conrad, D-N.D., Lieberman said creation of the Homeland Security Department provides an opportunity for stronger, more centralized leadership to protect Americans from terrorist attacks within our own borders. But the Administration’s budgetary neglect risks undermining the Department’s mission.
“When it comes to our overseas battles, the Administration appreciates that new challenges will require new resources,” Lieberman said. “Tragically, however, the proposed budget does not provide adequate funding to fight the war against terrorism at home.”
Lieberman also cited concerns the Administration would try to exploit the budget reconciliation process by attaching massive tax cuts and legislation to open the Arctic National Refuge to oil drilling.
Reconciliation procedures “were established for only one purpose, to provide momentum for deficit reduction,” Lieberman said. “It would be an abuse of these procedures to use them to enact tax cuts or other legislation that do not reduce the deficit, or to jam through extraneous legislative proposals that Republicans were unable to pass under regular procedures.”
In a speech February 14, 2003, Lieberman announced that an additional $16 billion was needed to reinforce the President’s proposed $41.3 billion homeland security budget. Of that $16 billion, $7.5 billion more was needed for first responders – the police, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians who are first at a disaster scene. Lieberman insisted in his budget letter that first responder money should not come at the expense of existing first responders programs, such as the Community Oriented Policing (COPS) grants, Law Enforcement Block Grants, or the Byrne formula grant program.
In addition, among other shortcomings, Lieberman said the Administration skimps on:
• Port Security – The Administration budgets no money for grants to improve physical security. Lieberman proposes $1.2 billion for FY04 and an additional$700 million for Coast Guard modernization.
• Transportation Security – The Administration funds the Transportation Security Administration in 2004 at a level 10 percent below its 2003 proposal. Lieberman calls for an additional $1.7 billion for TSA to secure rail, transit, and bus security.
• Bioterror – The Administration proposes no new money for Centers for Disease Control grants to public health departments to care for and track infectious disease outbreaks. Lieberman proposes an additional $1 billion, as well as $500 million for hospitals and $1.5 billion for research and development.
• Critical Infrastructure – The Administration calls for $500 million to shore up energy power grids, chemical and nuclear plans, communications networks. Lieberman would double that amount.