Homeland Security Funding Bill Heads to Conference Committee
By Ed Somers and Ron Thaniel
July 24, 2006
Both the House and Senate have now approved their FY 2007 funding bills (H.R. 5441) for the Department of Homeland Security, which will now head to a conference committee.
The House bill contains $3.45 billion, and the Senate $3.33 billion, for first responder programs. The Administration had requested only $2.7 billion for these same programs, which received $3.4 billion last year. The new figures are still more than $1 billion below the level of funding provided in FY 2004.
The chart provided details on key programs.
FEMA Changes Under Debate
In addition to addressing funding issues, the Senate bill contains provisions changing how FEMA and the preparedness directorate within DHS are structured, including management of grant funds. The Senate bill would merge FEMA and the preparedness directorates into a new “U.S Emergency Management Authority” headed by an Administrator within DHS.
The Senate bill contains language stating that “the Administrator shall implement an all-hazards-plus strategy that places priority on building those common capabilities necessary to prepare for, respond to, recover from, and mitigate the risks of terrorist attacks and natural disasters, while also building the unique capabilities necessary to prepare for, respond to, recover from, and mitigate the risks of specific types of incidents that pose the greatest risk to the Nation.”
The Senate approach is similar to legislation approved by the House Homeland Security Committee (H.R. 5351). However, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee also approved a bill (H.R. 5316) that would take FEMA out of DHS and make it an independent, cabinet-level agency.
Days following the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks on London’s subway and bus system and on Madrid’s commuter rail system a year earlier, and as reports came in about attacks on commuter railroads in Mumbai (Bombay), the Conference of Mayors in a letter to the Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (TN), Minority Leader Harry Reid (NV), Appropriation Chair Thad Cochran (MS), and Appropriations Ranking Member Robert C. Byrd (WV) urged the Senate to increase funding for transit beyond the House funding level of $200 million.
Unfortunately, the Senate rejected by a 50-50 vote several reasonable efforts to increase bus and rail security above the Committee approved level of $150 million. Transit security supporters needed 60 votes to break the Homeland Security budget cap.
With 9.7 billion trips a year on public transportation, securing this critical infrastructure and protecting riders from potential terrorist attacks rank as a high priority as outlined in the resolution adopted by the mayors at the Conference 74th Annual Meeting in June.
Since September 11, 2001, the federal government has spent only $545 million for public transportation security. By contrast, transit agencies identified $6 billion in security needs.
The Conference’s letter urged “increases in funding for transit security in the areas of communications, surveillance, detection, and research.”
The two bills will be resolved in a House-Senate Conference Committee after the month-long August recess.