WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., Tuesday, noting major gaps in the nation’s homeland defenses, proposed spending $8.4 billion above the President’s request to shore up the nation’s most urgent homeland security needs.
In a letter to Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg, R-N.H., and Ranking Member Kent Conrad, D-S.D., Lieberman said the Administration’s proposed $3.9 billion increase in homeland security spending government-wide for Fiscal Year 2006 was insufficient given the necessary spending levels documented by a variety of independent analysts. Furthermore, the Administration’s increases for the Department of Homeland Security are not guaranteed, as they are dependent upon a controversial increase in airline ticket fees which faces opposition in Congress.
“We must remember how exposed we rightly felt on September 11, 2001, and listen to the security experts who tell us that this threat is one we must live with – and prepare for – for the indefinite future,” Lieberman said.
Key elements of Lieberman’s homeland security spending proposal, some of which reflect authorizations provided for in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorist Prevention Act of 2004, but which were not accounted for in the President’s budget proposal are below. Each item is recommended spending above the President’s request:
• $4.2 billion for first responder and preventer training and equipment, including interoperable communications equipment to enable first responders of different jurisdictions to speak to one another. The Administration’s proposal contains an overall $1.7 billion cut, government-wide, in first responder programs.
• $1.1 billion for transit, port, rail, and general critical infrastructure security.
• $1 billion to help the public health community prepare for and respond to, if necessary, a deadly bioterror attack.
• $900 million to hasten the modernization of the Coast Guard’s crumbling fleet and to sustain its research and development.
• $800 million for aviation security, including improved explosives detection, cargo security, and access control.
• $360 million for border security.
“When Congress created the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), it recognized that this country faces a new and critical threat of terrorism here at home and must reach for bold, new approaches to confront this threat,” Lieberman wrote in the letter. “Unfortunately, the Administration has not been prepared to present a bold budget that recognizes the severity of this threat and funds the war on terrorism at home as robustly as we are funding it overseas.
“For the last two years, I have criticized the Administration’s proposed homeland security budget for coming up short and unfortunately this year is no different. I recognize that there are some proposed increases for targeted homeland security initiatives at a time when many other government programs are being cut. However, the proposed budget continues to leave too many glaring holes that could be exploited by terrorists.”
In his letter, Lieberman also addressed funding for other issues under the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s jurisdiction, including government employee issues, competitive sourcing, federal information technology, the National Archives, government management issues, and the District of Columbia.