The proposed 2006 Department of Homeland Security budget has two
persistent themes: consolidation and technology. By controlling
the money flow, the Bush administration is attempting to change
the way the federal government develops new security products and
relates to first responders on the state and local levels.
The 2006 budget is aimed at acquiring technological solutions to
patch security voids. From information technology to threat detection
equipment, emerging technology is at the foundation of DHS’
The budget request increases IT spending by more than $1 billion,
to nearly $6 billion. That represents more than 14 percent of the
department’s total budget and reflects the need for more cohesion
among the department’s many agencies and research programs.
For example, in an effort to better control costs and eliminate
redundancies, various identification activities will converge under
the new office of screening coordination and operations.
Formed within the border and transportation security directorate,
the new office would take over programs that monitor data on immigrants
and visitors, passenger screening and flight crew risk databases.
It also will manage the transportation-worker identification credential,
which will create universal identification cards for those employees.
The office will also handle the U.S. Visit program, which relies
on collecting biometric identification from visitors at land, sea
and air entry points to the United States. That program’s
tally will rise $50 million in 2006, for a total budget of $390
million. The law requires that the program be implemented at all
points of entry by December 31.
On top of controlling the flow of people into the United States,
an effort to, likewise, monitor inbound cargo is receiving renewed
funds. The DHS approach to imported threats appears as a mesh of
developing technologies that screen every point of entry with advanced
sensors and other gadgetry. That translates into a continuing boom
in opportunities for sensor technology companies.
In one program, DHS is requesting $20 million to develop a single
warning and identification system for chemical agents whose vapor
pressure is too low to be detected by conventional measures. It
is called a low volatility agent warning system. Radiation detection
portals will be bought and future systems developed with an increase
of $125 million. The America’s Shield Initiative received
a $20 million increase, to more than $51 million, to develop electronic
surveillance along the northern and southern borders. Countering
shoulder-fired missiles, DHS is devoting $110 million in the 2006
budget, an increase of $49 million, to pursue this technology for
The Container Security Initiative, which focuses on pre-screening
cargo before it enters the United States will receive an increase
of $5.4 million over last year. Included in that price tag is a
pilot program to set up screening in Egypt, Chile, India, Philippines,
Venezuela, Bahamas and Honduras in 2006. The total amount in the
budget for this program is $138.8 million.
Rounding out the tech-focused budget, DHS wants to devote $61.1
million to the homeland security operations center to harden its
data systems, a $6 million increase for smart-card projects, a $5.2
million boost for geospatial programs and $2.5 million for an IT
engineering center of excellence.
Overall, the budget sets aside $3.6 billion to train and equip
first responders. Money dedicated specifically for surface transportation,
however, would dip to $32 million in the 2006 budget—about
$83 million less than in 2005.
Much of the staff training is handled within each office’s
budget, but some dedicated programs stick out. One focusing on firearm
qualifications for flight deck officers and self-defense training
for crewmembers has been increased by $11 million, to $36.3 million.
Other training needs are wrapped in technical advances. Specifically,
the Transportation Security Administration would get $174 million
for its high-speed operational-capability project that provides
data connections to checkpoints at airports, including high-speed
Internet and phone connections between terminals, said spokesperson
The internet access allows screeners to train online, facilitates
the creation of “quasi-training centers” at the airports
and helps keep TSA employees up to date on new procedures. Also
included in the budget is an effort to better connect communication
systems between terminals, which are sometimes owned or operated
by various airlines or built in different decades. “It seems
tech-oriented, but in the end everything we’re doing is to
support the screeners,” O’Sullivan said.
The apparent loser in the budget appears to be the state and local
government preparedness office, which faces an 11 percent reduction,
down $420 million from its current $4 billion operating budget.
“The formula previously used to allocate these funds does
not account for the unique threats, vulnerabilities and unmet needs
of each state,” DHS budget documents said. “The budget
proposes to award these grants on a discretionary basis, including
evaluations of risk, and an application-based review of need and
consistency with national priorities…This improvement brings
together multiple grant programs from several diverse disciplines
in an efficient, cohesive environment.”
Some of these adjustments address concerns brought up by the September
11 Commission and other critics who saw inequities and politics
behind homeland security grants. The 2006 budget alters the formula
for grant funding to state and local bodies by distributing money
based on risks and vulnerabilities, rather than population levels.
“As the 9/11 Commission reported, the current grant-making
process is in danger of becoming pork-barrel legislation,”
said a recent report from the Center for Strategic and International
Studies that was released before the President’s budget. “Within
states, rural, less populated areas often receive a disproportionate
amount of money as well. Some states distribute funds equally among
counties, resulting in amounts that are so small that it is difficult
to imagine how they could be used productively.”
Targeted grants aimed at infrastructure protection will receive
$600 million with the money going to hardening transportation, energy
and vital commercial facilities. In other changes, state homeland
security grants will have a minimum floor of $2.6 million, and 20
percent of the $1.02 billion will be dedicated to law-enforcement
Proposed Budget Boosts Technology Spending
The quest for new equipment, too, will be brought under a single
authority, the science and technology directorate. The cost of that
consolidation is $127 million.
Technology and grant money are two sides of the same coin, said
DHS officials. Controlling the flow of grants is one of the few
ways the federal government can reach down to the local level and
help foster technological interoperability, explained David Boyd,
director of research and development operations for DHS’ science
and technology directorate. “We don’t have the authority
to make them do things,” he told the audience at a recent
homeland security conference.
Boyd sits at the nexus of these activities. He heads the SAFECOM
program that is tasked with coordinating all levels of public safety
communication policies, practices and technologies. He suggested
that by better directing grant money and instituting standards for
equipment, the federal government can help link local first responders
and make their gear interoperable. “The local guys and girls…have
to be part of actually developing products.”
Technology aimed at first responders must take into account their
small budgets and immediate needs, Boyd added. He cited such requirements
as communicating with staff of adjacent counties or precincts and
voice-connections between local responders.
Federal agencies leaders must also keep in mind those elected officials
who hold the purse strings when considering budget priorities. More
to the point, those small agencies have definite leverage during
the budget preparation process. “No federal agency has a congressman,”
Boyd said. “Every local police station or firehouse has two
senators and a congressman.”
Other notable budget items:
• Temporary worker worksite enforcement funding will more
than double, including employer audits, investigations of possible
violations and criminal case presentations. An increase of $18 million
• A new White House perimeter security design is included
in the budget at a cost of $2 million. These funds will be used
to study enhancements.
• The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center budget increases
by $2.7 million for simulator training technology to teach officers
how to reduce the accidents during car chases.
• The Rescue 21 project is funded at $101 million in the
continuing revamping the Coast Guard’s coastal communications
network. The 2006 money will complete system installations in 14
regions and begin development of designs for the remaining 11.
• Cyber security efforts will include a large increase, including
the formation of a round the clock cyber-threat watch, warning and
response capability. An increase of $5 million is proposed in the
budget for this effort, which brings the program total to $73.3
• Customs and Border Protection and the Pentagon will assume
responsibility from the Federal Aviation Administration for operating
and maintaining long-range radar technology, starting in 2006. CBP’s
share for this is $44.2 million in the budget.
• The Federal Emergency Management Agency is to be given
$20 million to coordinate catastrophic disaster planning and drills.