House, Senate Refuse to Fund DHS Ops Center

In the wake of the London bombings, it’s interesting to note that, according to a subscription-only article in “National Journal,” both houses of Congress have refused to fully fund the Department of Homeland Security’s operations center as President Bush has requested. The center, which runs 24/7, links federal, state and local officials during emergencies.

According to the House Appropriations Committee report on Homeland Security spending for fiscal 2006, the center is the “primary national-level hub for operational communications, information sharing and situational awareness for all information pertaining to domestic incident management.”

Gee, sounds pretty important.

Maybe, but Congress so far has declined to increase the center’s funding from $35 million in fiscal 2005 to $61 million in fiscal 2006, as the administration requested. Of the additional $26 million, $13.4 million would go to expand the homeland security information network and $12.9 million to enhance systems and operations.

The House bill would provide $56 million, and the Senate version would allocate $40 million.

The House passed its measure in May; the Senate is to consider its bill this month. Both chambers must agree on an allocation before sending a bill to the president.

The administration’s budget proposal aimed to include one-third of the nation’s counties on the department’s homeland security information network. Last year the department added every state and major urban area to the network.

The House deducted $5 million from Bush’s request because the department has not provided a five-year implementation plan for the center as required by the 2005 spending measure. The Senate did not explain its reduction.

Senators also rejected the administration’s proposal for a new information-sharing and collaboration program, which would enhance information-sharing processes among federal, state and local officials, as well as the private sector. The House provided $5.5 million for that initiative.

House and Senate appropriators fully funded the administration’s request for $143 million for an emergency-preparedness telecommunications program, including a national communications system and an initiative to wirelessly link key personnel and government officials during a national crisis. That allocation still represents $1.9 million less than Congress provided last year.

Maybe the bombs of London will loosen the purse strings of Capitol Hill.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.