Homeland Security Gets Boost in New Budget
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The Fiscal Times
February 14, 2011

President Obama’s defense commitment extends to the nation’s growing investment in homeland security, with a budget request of $43.2 billion for 2012. While that is a scant $411 million less than this year’s projected level, it represents a hefty 8.5 percent boost from 2010 spending after adjusting for the $3 billion previously spent on protecting against bioterrorism threats that is now performed by the Health and Human Services Department.

Department secretary Janet Napolitano last year completed the agency’s first-ever quadrennial review – an exercise borrowed from Pentagon planners – and initiated what the department billed as a “bottom-up review” of its sprawling bureaucracy, which includes the Secret Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Transportation Security Administration and the Coast Guard. The review turned up just $800 million in savings.

Meanwhile, the budget request included room for $105 million to purchase another 275 advanced imaging machines for the nation’s airports, bringing the total to 1,275. The TSA budget request also covers another 535 people to operate the machines and an additional 350 “behavior detection officers” at airports, which would bring that total force to 3,336.

The budget offsets some of those additional costs by calling for an additional $1.50 per enplanement fee beginning in 2012, bringing the total cost per ticket to $4. The budget proposal points out that security fees have not been raised since the intermediate aftermath of 9/11, even though aviation security costs have risen by 400 percent.

The proposal also requests funds to permanently deploy the 1,250 border patrol agents hired in 2010, bringing the total force to 42,556 – the highest level for the border patrol in the nation’s history. The largest contingent is deployed along the Southwest border with Mexico. The agency is also seeking $242 million for continued deployment of the latest surveillance technology for high-traffic areas along the border. The request includes more fixed towers and mobile equipment for three of the five border patrol stations in Arizona.

The administration also wants $3.8 billion to help cash-strapped state and local communities keep their first responders on their payrolls, and requested a special $420 million fund to help local communities rehire laid off firefighters and retain emergency response personnel.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is requesting $1.8 billion for 2012 to address weather-related and other disasters.

Related Links
U.S. homeland security budget gets small budget boost (Reuters)
Budget Calls for More Airport Scanners (The Wall Street Journal)
15,000 More Feds in 2012? (nextgov)

spent 25 years as a foreign correspondent, economics writer and investigative business reporter for the Chicago Tribune and other publications. He is the author of the 2004 book, The $800 Million Pill: The Truth Behind the Cost of New Drugs.