What critics call a ‘CRomnibus’ boosts security spending

Key agencies and programs within the Homeland Security Department would get most, if not all, of what they requested in fiscal year 2011 funding under the latest version of the stop-gap spending measure being considered in the House.

A draft version of the continuing resolution now circulating in the House includes funding that the department could use to buy more controversial whole-body imaging machines for the nation's airports and to carry out critical border security and immigration enforcement operations, among other things.

Indeed, House Republican aides say the continuing resolution, commonly known as a CR, looks more like an omnibus appropriations bill-with a great deal more spending than a traditional CR that simply maintains spending levels from the previous year.

And they've coined a term for it: a "CRomnibus."

Overall, DHS actually would get about the same level of funding for fiscal 2011 that it had for fiscal 2010-about $43 billion. But House Democratic appropriators made sure to give ample funding to several critical agencies and programs.

Citizenship and Immigration Services, for example, would receive about $306 million-well below the $386 million sought by the Obama administration, but much more than the $224 million the agency received in fiscal 2010.

The House CR would meet the administration's request for $5.4 billion in salaries and expenses at Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a slight increase from the $5.3 billion appropriated last year.

The Transportation Security Administration would get $5.26 billion for aviation security, compared to about $5.56 billion requested by the administration. But the CR gives the TSA slightly more than the $5.21 billion it received last year.

Congressional aides said TSA would have the discretion to use some of that funding to continue buying and installing full-body scanners, which have come under increased public scrutiny. TSA announced earlier this year that it planned to buy more of the machines in 2011.

But, under the CR, DHS will be required to submit a spending plan for new machines 30 days after the measure takes effect.

Notably, the draft CR also includes language that would increase to 10 years the possible jail term for somebody who enters an airport area or aircraft in violation of security requirements.

It also requires airports to post signs that somebody can be fined $10,000 for not complying with screening and states that the fines can still be imposed even if the signs are not put up.

This language on fines and penalties for noncompliance came from Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., his office confirmed Tuesday. House appropriators lifted the language from the Senate version of the fiscal 2011 Homeland Security spending bill.

In other areas, the House CR would meet the administration's fiscal 2011 request of $575 million for border security fencing and technology.
While the bill gave Citizenship and Immigration Services more money, it would prohibit the agency from going forward with a controversial aspect of the 2005 Real ID law-namely, creating a centralized data hub of state driver's license information.

The bill also prohibits the department from using funds to build the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan, Kan., until certain conditions are met, including submission of a revised biosafety and biosecurity risk assessment that describes ways to "significantly reduce risks" of doing research at the center.

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