Panel proposes boosting DHS budget

A House appropriations subcommittee today approved a draft Homeland Security Department appropriations bill that would increase department spending to $30.8 billion in fiscal 2005, an increase of $1.5 billion over the 2004 enacted level but $308 million below the administration's request.

The Defense Department appropriations bill provides an additional $1.2 billion for the Coast Guard and there is a separate $2.5 billion advance appropriation for Project Bioshield, House Appropriations Committee Homeland Security Subcommittee chairman Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) noted in a statement at today's amendment session.

The draft bill approved, known as the chairman's mark, did not reflect the two additional spending measures.

"Taking into account all of these adjustments, and comparing apples to apples, the mark is $1.1 billion above 2004 enacted [appropriations] and $496 million above the President's request," Rogers said.

The subcommittee's spending plan likely will face another amendment session in the Appropriations Committee next week.

Information technology project spending is marbled throughout the bill, and broken out in several specific programs. The panel embargoed the version of the legislation it approved today and provided brief summary tables.

One critical program, the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology project, would receive $340 million in 2005 under the chairman's mark, the same amount requested by the president and an increase of $11 million from the 2004 enacted level of $328 million, according to the subcommittee's draft spending chart and accounting method.

The panel also hewed to the administration's proposal for automation modernization spending for the Border and Transportation Security Directorate's Customs and Border Protection agency, which it set at $449.9 million. That's a $11.4 million increase from the 2004 enacted level.

The appropriations subcommittee proposed a large increase in funding for the Science and Technology Directorate's research, development, acquisition and operations line item. The research spending would increase to $1 billion in 2005 from last year's enacted level of $912.7 million under the chairman's mark, which also would be a $76.9 million increase over the administration's request of $986.7 million.

Deeper in the spending plan, the panel proposed $3.2 billion in spending for the Transportation Security Administration, an increase of $717.4 million over last year's enacted level and $473.4 million over the administration's request.

Much of that spending change reflected adjustments to TSA fees and capital accounts, but $67 million reflected a new line item, also requested by the administration in the same amount, for credentialing activities.

TSA is proceeding with the Transportation Worker Identification Credential program that is intended to provide smart cards to truck drivers, stevedores and others with access to transportation facilities.

The subcommittee's draft plan proposes a new line item for the department's CIO office, set at a level of $60.1 million. The administration did not request that line item. But the draft spending plan reduced the budget of the Management Directorate by $122.9 million, while partially offsetting it by the new CIO line item, a new $13 million line item for the department's chief financial officer and a new $7.7 million line item for the DHS chief procurement officer.

The appropriations subcommittee proposed boosting department-wide technology investments from a 2004 enacted level of $183.8 million to $211 million, which still would be less than the administration's request of $226 million.

The subcommittee's spending plan did not include any "earmarks," or funds set aside by lawmakers for pet projects, Rogers said. But additional amendment sessions in the full committee and in the closed conference committee will provide plenty of opportunity for lawmakers to insert language funding special projects.

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