Some Homeland Security activities remain unfunded

Despite President Bush's approval of the fiscal 2004 Homeland Security Department spending bill, more than 25 percent of federal homeland security activities remain unfunded, a top Senate budget expert said Monday.

Six weeks into fiscal year 2004, Congress has passed four of 13 departmental appropriations bills. The Homeland Security appropriations was the first signed by Bush, but in fact that accounts for little more than half of administration-wide spending on homeland security, said Bill Hoagland, budget and appropriations director in the Senate Majority Leader's office.

Total fiscal 2004 federal spending on homeland security is expected to be $41.3 billion, Hoagland said at an Equity International homeland security conference. Only about two-thirds, or approximately $23.9 billion, of the total Homeland Security Department funding of $29.4 billion is for homeland security activities. The remainder is for items such as regular operations of the Coast Guard and disaster response.

The only other homeland security spending approved so far is about $6.7 billion under the Defense Department, which combined with the Homeland Security Department, brings the total to date to about $30 billion, or three-quarters of the total $41.3 billion, he said.

Of the remaining appropriations legislation, the bill to fund the Commerce, Justice and State departments accounts for the largest additional homeland security spending, Hoagland said. The Senate began work on that bill Monday afternoon, but it contains "very controversial" issues such as media ownership at the FCC, he noted.

Also on the panel, Michael Geffroy, senior counsel on the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, said, "It's fair to say it is time for the department to find its legs" and move forward on its mission.

Geffroy walked through a bill proposed by committee Chairman Christopher Cox, R-Calif., to "dramatically reshape" the distribution of grant money to first responders to emergencies. He said the chairman hopes the committee can address the bill, which would provide regional funding on the basis of overdue Homeland Security Department threat assessments rather than on population, before Thanksgiving recess.

Geffroy also discussed other committee legislation, including setting "milestone markers" for the department as a way to measure progress over time. He said Cox's staff is working with committee Democrats and industry to identify good milestones, and he predicted the process would not be resolved before Congress leaves for the year.

The committee also is examining industry concerns that intellectual property and business proprietary information is not adequately protected under the law creating the Homeland Security Department. "There is clear recognition that there are many questions about the regulations in place," Geffroy said afterward. The committee will continue gathering views on this issue into next year, he said.

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