White House, Congress wrangle over Justice, FBI funds

The White House took a swipe at decisions made by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees that rejected the administration's recommendations for funding the Justice Department, the FBI and NASA, in a policy statement that covered some major IT projects.

The Office of Management and Budget yesterday issued a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) on H.R. 2862, the appropriations bill for the Commerce and Justice departments, science and related agencies.

OMB objected to the bill's $1.4 billion overall funding level, which would trickle down to many IT projects in federal civilian agencies and, via grants, to state and local agencies as well.

The SAP singled out the draft bill's reduction in funding for the multiagency Terrorist Screening Center, an FBI-led office that maintains the watch list system known as the Terrorist Screening Database.

OMB's objections to the Justice portion of the bill centered largely on the appropriators' decisions to fund the Community Oriented Policing Services project, a Clinton-era project to funnel grant money to law enforcement agencies nationwide. Part of the COPS program provides funding for law enforcement technology. While COPS originally was touted as putting thousands more police officers on the streets, in the years since it began, many law enforcement agencies have relied on the federal funding to defray various expenses, including IT.

The SAP also covered the bill's provisions for NASA funding, partly by objecting to $220 million earmarked funds for a mission to fix the Hubble Space Telescope. The White House also sought additional authority to reprogram funds among the space agency's technology-laced projects.

The House has approved the bill, as has the Senate Appropriations Committee. It is now headed for a vote on the Senate floor and a subsequent conference committee to resolve differences between the two chambers' versions of the legislation.

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