DHS Budget Proposal: Winners and Losers (Updated)

By Stew Magnuson
The Obama administration has proposed $1.3 billion in cuts to theDepartment of Homeland Security’s fiscal year base budget. The $46.2 billion Congress allocated for fiscal year 2012 would go down to $44.9 billion.
Spread out across 22 federal agencies, along with the Science and Technology Directorate, and funds to pay for headquarters operations and management, figuring out the winners and losers is a tough task.
The Coast Guard’s overall budget would go down, from $10.5 billion to a little under $10 billion. Several older ships would be decommissioned, but the service would get its wish for fully funding its sixth National Security Cutter. There is no mention in the proposal of cancelling or slowing down procurement of the seventh and eighth ships, which would complete the fleet. Two of the original High Endurance Cutters that the new ships are replacing would be decommissioned under the proposal.
There is also some preliminary funding — $8 million — to begin work on a new polar ice breaker. Updating the service’s Arctic ice breakers has been a longtime goal of Coast Guard leadership.
Many of the proposed Coast Guard cuts come at the expense of personnel. Some 222 headquarters positions would be eliminated, resulting in $12.7 million in savings. Almost $10 million would also come out of the recruitment accounts. The service believes it can trim an additional $56 million through management efficiencies.
House Homeland Security Committee ranking member Bennie G. Thompson, D-Miss., said, “Although I am pleased that DHS has found places for efficiencies, I am concerned that key programs may be short-changed — particularly efforts to update the Coast Guard’s aged fleet.”
In addition, the budget calls for more synergy between the Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection air forces. A senior leadership group will be formed to see where the two agencies can share resources, maintenance contracts and other areas where they can avoid duplication.   
The Obama administration seeks to restore a large chunk of the funding the Science and Technology Directorate lost when Congress slashed its budget for 2012. Enacted at $668 million, the administration would like to bring it back up to $831 million. Research funding would be restored for border technology, chemical attack resiliency, counterterrorism, information sharing and interoperability.
Customs and Border Protection’s budget holds steady with the administration proposing a modest $272 million increase. However, this must take into account the proposed transfer of the $261 million US-VISIT program from the National Protection and Programs Directorate to CBP. The Southwest border would continue to receive funding for technology: $91 million to continue deploying a mix of sensors in Arizona and $40 million for tactical communications in Texas. The northern border will receive $10 million for low flying aircraft detection, small vessel detection and other programs.
There is no mention in the document of cutting or purchasing more CBP Predator unmanned aerial vehicles in 2013, and DHS spokespeople did not respond to requests for comment. (Update: A DHS official later confirmed that there are no plans to request new drones in the FY 2013 budget. A Southwest border supplemental budget passed last year had funds for an additional Guardian, the maritime variant flown jointly by CPB and the Coast Guard. That will be delivered this year and will give CBP 10 total UAVs.) 
As for hardware, CBP’s vehicle fleet takes the biggest hit under the proposal. It calls for $41.2 million in savings by deferring vehicle replacement programs.
The Transportation Security Administration’s budget would be reduced by $196 million, down from the enacted $7.8 billion. Most of that would be gained by management efficiencies, although there would be an increase in the aviation passenger security fee for every one-way trip taken on U.S. commercial aircraft. Passengers have not seen an increase in the fee since 2002. The new fee structure of $5.00 per one-way ticket would replace the fee that is collected for each enplanement during a trip. TSA estimates that this would generate an additional $317 million per year.
Continuing a trend across the federal government, cybersecurity related accounts would receive big plus-ups under the proposal. The Science and Technology Directorate would receive $64.5 million for research and development of new technologies. Almost $13 million is included to bolster the department’s cybersecurity work force. And $93 million is included for the department’s US-Computer Emergency Readiness Team, better known as US-CERT. This is the department’s main effort to coordinate information sharing on cyberthreats with other agencies, state and local governments and industry.

Topics: C4ISR, Cybersecurity, Homeland Security, Air Transportation, Border Security, DHS Budget

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