Reconfiguring DHS

Homeland Security Committee chairman Christopher Cox has praised DHS' plan to 'translate policy and intelligence into immediate action.'

Chertoff's reorganization plan and draft legislation aim to push agency forward

Changes at the Homeland Security Department being handed down both internally and from Congress will likely energize its reorganization and reshape its funding priorities.

All the changes will affect the department's IT in various ways, ranging from consolidating lines of authority more tightly under secretary Michael Chertoff, to elevating the visibility of cybersecurity and highlighting systems used to prepare for national emergencies.

The organizational legislation and the administrative realignment, taken together, will implement large parts of Chertoff's second-stage review of homeland security policy.

Chertoff outlined the reorganization plan in a seven-page letter to House Homeland Security Committee chairman Christopher Cox (R-Calif.) and other senior lawmakers. Chertoff's reorganization powers flow from section 872 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, which grants DHS broad realignment authority.

'DHS continues to face difficulties integrating operations at the borders and across components,' Chertoff said in the letter. He said the department needs a mechanism by which he can 'translate policy and intelligence into immediate action across all of the department's components.'

The second-stage review plan also requires passage of legislation the administration has drafted. The four-page bill focuses largely on changes in titles as well as the creation and elimination of organizations within the department.

Early signals from Capitol Hill indicate that the reorganization legislation will gain quick approval.
Cox praised the plan following Chertoff's announcement, and Chertoff said DHS officials had adopted some of the ideas favored by Cox's committee.

Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.), chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Economic Security, Infrastructure Protection and Cybersecurity, said the administration's plan to create an assistant secretary for cybersecurity would help protect critical private and government systems.

And one of the department's key spending watchdogs, Harold Rogers (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, called the restructuring 'a welcome change.'

Meanwhile, the department's appropriations bill last week was headed for a House-Senate conference to iron out differences between the two chambers' versions of HR 2360. The House passed the spending bill on May 17, and the Senate followed suit July 14.

The House bill cleared total discretionary spending of $30.85 billion, while the Senate OK'd $30.8 billion'both about $1.2 billion more than the administration had asked for.

Congress scotched one of the administration's most sweeping proposals for DHS reorganization, which would have created a centralized Screening and Coordination Office to run programs for detecting hazardous cargo and dangerous individuals entering the country. The White House had asked for $526 million for SCO, but neither chamber approved money for it.

Instead, the two chambers' appropriations bills leave spending on targeting projects tied to the administrative organizations and programs that use the related intelligence and technology.

But a key component of SCO, the U.S. Visitor and Immigration Status Indicator Technology program, likely will do well in the appropriations process. The House cleared $390 million for U.S. Visit and the Senate approved $340 million, an amount equal to last year's appropriation. The administration had requested about $390 million for the program.

The Senate took a harsher view of the department's CIO office than either the House or the administration. While the lower chamber passed the administration request of $340 million for CIO office operations, the Senate pared the total figure to $286.5 million. The CIO office received $275.3 million last year.

The Customs and Border Protection agency's massive Automated Commercial Environment systems upgrade for tariff and cargo process has escaped serious damage in the budget process so far. Both chambers cleared the administration request of $321.7 million. In addition, they agreed to the administration's request to add $8.1 million to an account to support the legacy tariff and border processing system by clearing the administration's $136.3 million request for the Automated Commercial System program.

New line item

Congress looked kindly on the administration's $53 million request for the MaxHR human resources system program, breaking it out in a separate line item for the first time and clearing the entire administration request.

Both chambers appeared willing to put more muscle behind DHS' central procurement operation, for which the administration had requested $7.35 million. Both the House and Senate increased that figure to $9 million.

CBP's technology-heavy Automated Targeting Systems program appears likely to take a small cut. The center received $29.8 million this year. Both the Senate and the House cleared 2006 appropriations of $28.3 million, or about $1.5 million less.

CBP's National Targeting Center, a clearinghouse for threat information, got a slight bump up from this year's appropriated amount of $16.1 million to a 2006 appropriation of $16.7 million, equal to the administration's request.

Deep in the appropriations process, Congress increased funding for the little-noticed Atlas/Chimera program, a project to improve connectivity among department systems. The administration requested $40.2 million, an amount the House approved. The Senate added $10 million to the kitty, leaving the two chambers to wrangle over the Senate proposal of $50.2 million.

The Coast Guard, meanwhile, took a bit of a hit. This year, the service received $6.4 billion in discretionary funds, and the administration asked for $6.9 billion for 2006. However, the House approved only $6.4 billion and the Senate recommended $6.76 billion. Much of the reduction came in the administration's $966 million Integrated Deepwater systems program request, which the House reduced to $500 million and the Senate cut to $905.6 million.

Mandatory spending, such as expenditures on Coast Guard pensions, also affects the top-line DHS budget figures, as do emergency appropriations, fund transfers and fee revenue. But discretionary spending is the true apples-to-apples comparison of the appropriations amounts.

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