Administration balks at Senate limits on DHS funds

The White House is objecting to a section of the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations bill that eliminates funding for use of commercial databases in the department's Secure Flight passenger screening program at airports.

'The administration is concerned that the proposed restrictions on the use of commercial databases may foreclose a valuable security tool for identifying potential terrorist threats,' said a White House Statement of Administration Policy released Monday.

The Senate Appropriations Committee decided to bar the use of commercial databases in departmental screening programs. 'The provision also prohibits the obligation of funds for a commercial database that is obtained from or remains under the control of a non-federal entity,' reads the legislation.

The spending bill also restricts funding for Secure Flight until protections are strengthened for privacy and procedures are instituted to ensure that people can correct errors in the database, and that the overall error rate is low, among other requirements.

Use of commercial databases'such as those owned by credit reporting companies and banks'within the government's airline passenger screening programs has been a very controversial topic, owing to concerns about privacy and due process, and to the risk of identity theft and the lack of data security.

The White House also opposes the Senate bill's restrictions on funding for a new Domestic Nuclear Detection Office to address radiological and nuclear threats.

The legislation allocates $127 million for the new office'$100 million less than the president's request'and it specifies that $112 million shall not be available until certain requirements are met.

These include the Secretary of Homeland Security submitting a 'staffing and management plan and an expenditure plan for the office and the global systems architecture, to include multiyear costs, that has been reviewed by the Government Accountability Office' and several congressional committees.

The Bush administration views those conditions as too restrictive.

The administration 'strongly recommends that the funding requested be consolidated within the DNDO without unnecessary limitations on the availability of funding,' the statement said.

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer for Government Computer News' sister publication, Washington Technology.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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