War supplemental boosts funding for homeland security agencies
Almost $1 billion in emergency funds would go toward hiring new border guards and criminal investigators, beefing up FBI operations and boosting the Coast Guard's fleet.
Emergency funding approved by congressional negotiators late Tuesday includes almost $1 billion in new money for homeland security agencies, including the FBI, Coast Guard and U.S. Marshals Service.
The funding is part of an $82 billion emergency spending measure for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The spending package is expected to be approved by the House this week and the Senate next week, then go to President Bush to be signed into law.
The package includes $635 million for agencies within the Homeland Security Department, specifically the bureaus of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection. About $455 million would go to ICE to cover existing shortfalls and lift a hiring freeze that has lasted more than a year.
With the funding, ICE could hire an additional 50 criminal investigators, 168 immigration enforcement agents and deportation officers, and provide 1,950 additional detention beds. Lawmakers also directed that ICE realign its Office of Detention and Removal.
"The conferees are aware that ICE has been unable to obligate for fiscal 2005 enhancements and initiatives due to the uncertainty of its financial condition and its pending reprogramming," negotiators said. "The conferees wish to ensure that these programs are initiated in an orderly way, that requisite funds do not lapse, and that continuity of funding is assured."
The funding would also provide CBP about $177 million to hire, train, equip and support 500 new Border Patrol agents.
In order to provide the emergency funding, however, DHS would have to cut about $185 million. The cuts would be made in areas such as CBP and ICE salaries and expenses; the DHS Working Capital Fund; and the office of the undersecretary for management.
Lawmakers also directed DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff to provide Congress with a plan by June 15 for spending the emergency money.
The FBI would receive about $74 million in new funding, including about $35 million for operations in Iraq and $35 million for the Terrorist Screening Center. Lawmakers were critical of TSC, which is responsible for merging terrorist watch lists and checking people against databases.
Lawmakers said they were concerned about TSC's continued reliance on temporary staff to perform its mission.
They also asked for a long-term plan for TSC to be submitted to Congress by Sept. 1. The report must include a five-year staffing and spending plan; a list of TSC's existing and projected users, their sponsoring agency, and that agency's financial and in-kind contributions to TSC; a comprehensive description and direct cost estimate of the unique needs of users by agency, fiscal year, project, program and activity; an estimated cost for supporting each user agency; and any additional TSC requirements and costs associated with those requirements.
Lawmakers also directed the Justice Department's inspector general to evaluate whether TSC can support the Secure Flight program, which is being developed to screen airline passengers. The IG must issue a report by Aug. 1.
The Coast Guard would get $112 million for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and about $50 million to buy or build new patrol boats.
The U.S. Marshals Service would get $12 million to pump up judicial security services.
"Recent events prove a need for increased judicial security outside of courthouse facilities to better detect, assess and respond to threats and inappropriate communications made to judges," lawmakers wrote. "The conference agreement provides this funding for off-site security enhancements for judges, such as home intrusion detection systems."