DHS urged to address Hill threat to cut funds for key programs

Homeland Security leaders should take very seriously the actions last week by House appropriators to slash funding for key programs, including the Coast Guard's long-term modernization program known as Deepwater, in the department's fiscal 2006 budget request, says retired Adm. James Loy.

The move, led by Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., was aimed at punishing the department for missing deadlines to provide the committee with information on programs and missions. Besides Deepwater, the panel cut funds for the Office of the Homeland Security Secretary, the Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"Mr. Rogers is one of the most perceptive and honest brokers on Capitol Hill," says Loy, the former Coast Guard commandant who retired as the deputy secretary at Homeland Security earlier this spring. "I think the world of him. Somebody needs to take this shot across the bow seriously."

Loy spoke to Government Executive following his participation in a panel discussion of former senior leaders in Homeland Security sponsored by IBM and the Institute for the Study of Public Policy Implementation at American University.

Loy echoed comments made earlier by former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, who said there was no relationship more important to the nation's safety than that between DHS and Capitol Hill.

Ridge urged Congress to further consolidate committee jurisdiction and oversight of domestic security issues. During Ridge's tenure, the department reported to more than 80 congressional panels. Although both the Senate and the House have streamlined their supervision of the department, many transportation and immigration-related functions continue to receive oversight from multiple panels, some with conflicting objectives.

"If you could [consolidate oversight], then when it came time to make budget decisions" the outcome would be more rational and productive, Ridge said.

Both Loy and Ridge said Homeland Security has been key players in building bridges between federal agencies and state, local and private-sector organizations.

Loy, now a senior counselor at the Cohen Group, a consulting firm headed by former Defense Secretary William Cohen, says it was "rough sledding at the beginning," but Homeland Security's relationship with the Defense Department has improved considerably and the two departments now work together very effectively.

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