Faced with a stubborn Congress and a crushing national debt, the Obama administration has decided to sacrifice politically popular grant programs that aid homeland security and law enforcement agencies in its budget for the next fiscal year.
The administration's fiscal 2012 budget requests for the Homeland Security Department and Justice Department reduce or eliminate funding for several grant programs that help state and local communities.
The budgets also do not seek any funding to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States for civilian trials-perhaps another recognition that Congress will not budge on the issue. Indeed, lawmakers have put in place funding bans on the transfer of detainees.
The administration is seeking about $43.2 billion and $28.2 billion in net discretionary funding for DHS and the Justice Department next year, respectively.
But funding reductions for grant programs will test the resolve of lawmakers from both parties to rein in federal spending. In previous years, Republicans have joined Democrats to fend off grant cuts.
Overall, the administration is requesting about $3.8 billion for homeland security grant programs, down from about $4.1 billion in fiscal 2010. Administrative funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which doles out the grant programs, would be reduced by $88 million.
But DHS is also seeking to increase the security fee that airline passengers pay in order to raise new revenue.
House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., said the budget "is full of gimmicks."
"The administration is claiming a nearly $650 million offset from unauthorized aviation security fee collections that don't yet exist and, once again, is creating a significant shortfall in FEMA's Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) by nearly $2.0 billion in actual and expected costs," Aderholt said in a statement.
The Justice Department said it would decrease funding for its grant programs by nearly $600 million in fiscal 2012 compared to fiscal 2010, including almost $200 million for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program.
"This budget upholds the department's historic role in fighting crime, protecting civil rights, preserving the environment, and ensuring fairness in the marketplace, while responding to new challenges such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill," Attorney General Eric Holder said. "Given the current economic climate, this budget also identifies savings and efficiencies, while assuring that our resources will be devoted to our most critical mission areas."
But some grant programs were spared the budget ax in both departments. For example, Justice wants to increase the Community Oriented Policing Services hiring program by $302 million next fiscal year, bringing total funding to $600 million. And DHS is proposing to increase security grants for urban areas to $920 million in fiscal 2012, compared to $852 million in fiscal 2010.
The fiscal 2012 Homeland Security budget request represents about a $3.4 billion increase over funding enacted for fiscal 2010, when funding for the so-called Project Bioshield program is not included. That project was transferred to the Health and Human Services Department in 2010.