Homeland Security: First-Responder Grants Would Be Cut as Other Funding Grows

For Immediate Release:

February 2, 2004

Contact:Martin Kady II

CQ Staff

While many Cabinet agencies brace for a tight budget year, the Department of Homeland Security would receive a 9 percent increase under President Bush's proposal as the administration continues to pour money into anti-terrorism efforts.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), created last year by the consolidation of 22 federal agencies, would receive $31.4 billion in total budget authority, up from an estimated $28.8 billion in fiscal 2004. Discretionary spending would grow at a more modest rate of 3 percent to $28.3 billion for fiscal 2005.

While Bush's proposal for DHS is consistent with his government-wide push for a 9.7 percent increase in homeland funding, the budget would cut $800 million in grants to first responders, a move sure to disappoint the large and politically influential firefighter and police organizations who say cities and counties are still unprepared for another terrorist attack. Under the budget proposal, the Office of Domestic Preparedness, which distributes first-responder grants, would receive $3.6 billion for fiscal 2005, down from $4.4 billion in fiscal 2004.

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said Monday that the first responder funding reflects a "strategic shift" away from grant formulas based purely on population to formulas that distribute money to cities based on the threat of terrorism. "There's still literally billions and billions to be distributed," Ridge said.

Urban Security Boosted

Major cities that have been targeted by terrorists would receive a significant increase in security grants. Bush proposed $1.2 billion for the "urban security initiative," a 65 percent increase over fiscal 2004.

First responders were among the most vocal lobbyists during the fiscal 2004 Homeland Security appropriations process, and Congress added money to Bush's request for grants to police, fire and emergency workers.

Their Democratic allies were quick to denounce the proposed cuts. "I think it sends a negative message," said Rep. Martin Olav Sabo of Minnesota, ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee. "They [first responders] play an important role in protecting the country."

Other divisions of DHS would receive significant increases. The Transportation Security Administration would get $5.3 billion, an increase of 20 percent over fiscal 2004. The funding boost for TSA, much of which would pay for more security screening technology at airports, comes as the aviation industry is dealing with fresh terrorist threats and canceled flights because of security concerns.

The Coast Guard, which is in the midst of a fleet overhaul as it adjusts to its new role as part of DHS, would receive $6.3 billion in discretionary budget authority, an increase of 8 percent.

Project Bioshield Money Grows

Accounting for a large chunk of the overall increase in the DHS budget is new money for Project Bioshield, the administration's plan for stockpiling vaccines and antidotes to counteract a biological or chemical terrorist attack. Project Bioshield would receive $2.5 billion in fiscal 2005, almost triple the $890 million allocated during the current fiscal year. However, some of the 2005 Bioshield money may be spent over several years.

The department's Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection division would receive $865 million in fiscal 2005 under Bush's request, but money for security assessments of the nation's critical infrastructure would decrease from $710 million to $703 million. This division is responsible for pulling together and analyzing intelligence from other agencies, and for assessing the vulnerability to terrorist attack of the nation's bridges, tunnels, dams and other infrastructure.

The budget also would provide new money for what is likely to be a controversial personnel system at DHS. When Congress passed the law in 2002 (PL 107-296) that created the Department of Homeland Security, it included language giving the agency new flexibility over pay policies and personnel, a move that roiled unions representing federal employees. The fiscal 2005 budget request includes $103 million to implement new pay plans and personnel rules that give the agency authority to link pay to performance, according to Janet Hale, the DHS undersecretary for management.

Overall, DHS said it will have $40.2 billion in total money for fiscal 2005, including about $8.8 billion the agency will collect in revenues from flood insurance, customs fees, airline passenger fees and other receipts.

First posted Feb. 2, 2004 11:39 a.m.