How DHS plans to use stimulus funds

A good summary of DHS stimulus spending from HS Daily Wire:

St. Elizabeths/DHS headquarters consolidation: $200 million, $450 million to GSA

  • $650 million ($200 million to DHS; $450 million to GSA)

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP): $680 million direct, $300 million to GSA

  • $720 million for construction at land ports of entry ($300 million GSA; $420 million CBP)
  • $100 million for Non-Intrusive Inspection (NII) technology
  • $100 million for border technology on the southwest border
  • $60 million for tactical communications equipment and radios

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): $20 million

  • $20 million for ICE automation modernization and tactical communications

Transportation Security Administration: $1 billion

  • $1 billion for explosives detection systems and checkpoint screening equipment

U.S. Coast Guard: $240 million

  • $142 million for alteration of bridges program
  • $98 million for construction, which may include the following:
    • Shore facilities and aids to navigation facilities
    • Vessel repair/acquisition (includes High Endurance Cutter, National Security Cutter)

Federal Emergency Management Agency: $615 million+

  • $100 million for Emergency Food and Shelter Program
  • $150 million for transit and rail security grants
  • $150 million for port security grants, no non-federal match required
  • $210 million for Assistance to Firefighter (AFG) grants for firehouse construction; maximum grant is $15.0 million
  • $5 million expansion in authority for FEMA Community Disaster Loans
  • Requires the establishment of an arbitration panel to resolve Katrina/Rita public assistance disputes
  • Requires FEMA to accept additional applications for Katrina/Rita public assistance
  • All non-federal matching requirements for SAFER grants waived for FY 2009-2010

DHS Office of Inspector General: $5 million

  • $5 million to conduct related oversight and audits

Total: Based on these numbers, here are the totals:

  • $2.76 billion direct to DHS & components
  • $750 million to GSA
  • $3.5 billion total
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DHS IG Report: DHS’ role in fusion centers

The DHS Office of Inspector General issued a report last week on “DHS’ Role in
State and Local Fusion Centers”.  The report was issued in response to a request from U.S. Representative Bennie G. Thompson, Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security.

The report reviews successes and challenges in detail, and makes 7 recommendations.  The DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis (DHS I&A) is the organization in DHS responsible for fusion centers, and the report states that I&A agreed with all 7 recommendations, and “has proposed plans and taken action that, once fully implemented, will reduce a number of the deficiencies…identified.”

Here’s a summary of the recommendations:

  1. Improve responses to Requests for Information, and identify designated points-of-contact between I&A and fusion centers for information needs.
  2. Expand training courses, including adding additional course locations (not just Washington D.C.), and exploring online training.
  3. Integrate all relevant I&A division roles and responsibilities into the fusion center program.
  4. Review and increase assignments of DHS staff to fusion centers.
  5. Develop measurable performance standards for the fusion center program, and justify continued costs.
  6. Improve interconnectivity among the multiple unclassified and classified information systems used to share and obtain information from fusion centers.
  7. Explore funding options and identify sufficient resources for the fusion center program.  This includes providing staff to the State and Local Program Office to oversee and manage the program.

Regardless of intent, whether or not any of these recommendations are implemented will ultimately come down to funding.  To this end, recommendations #4 (increase DHS staff assigned to fusion centers), #6 (improve interconnectivity among systems), and the 2nd half of #7 (providing staff to oversee and manage the program) are probably the least likely to be implemented in the near future.  But expect funds for some or all of these to be requested in the DHS FY2010 budget.

FEMA’s relationship to DHS drawing attention and debate

One of the most important decisions President-elect Obama will face when his administration takes over DHS is whether to leave FEMA as a part of DHS, or remove it from DHS and make it a cabinet-level agency, as it was before DHS was formed.  Members of Congress, stakeholders, and prominent organizations are taking sides on the issue, but it’s not clear yet what stance the Obama administration will take.

[UPDATE 05/15: CQ Politics reports that on Wednesday 5/13, Secretary Napolitano stated that the Obama administration supports keeping FEMA within DHS; but one day later, Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN) said that he will continue his push to remove FEMA from DHS, despite opposition from the administration.  Give some credit to the dedicated folks at FEMA who’ve had to endure the uncertainty of this long-running debate, because apparently it’s not over yet.]

House: Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee wrote to President-elect Obama on Dec. 17 to demand the removal of FEMA from DHS, declaring that its placement in the larger agency impedes its ability to serve as a “quick response” agency.  In response, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) Rep. wrote to Obama Dec. 19 strongly disagreeing with Oberstar, saying that FEMA should remain in DHS, but that Obama should appoint someone to lead FEMA who has a strong relationship with Obama.

Senate: Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), chairwoman of the Senate Homeland Security Disaster Recovery Subcommittee, has stated that she doesn’t recommend removing FEMA from DHS at this point, but she’s open to the concept and wouldn’t resist it if the new administration made the decision to make the change.  Landrieu told Homeland Security Secretary-designate Janet Napolitano that “there were still some senators that felt strongly about it staying where it is, some that were kind of open to change and others that would really recommend that it be made independent”, and that “it should be open to discussion.”

Update 01/15/09: Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), the chair of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), the ranking Republican member, urged Janet Napolitano at her confirmation hearing not to remove FEMA from DHS.

Bush Administration: The Bush administration made the decision to include FEMA in DHS, and still supports that decision.  Michael Chertoff has publicly stated that he opposes removing FEMA from DHS, and has cautioned his successor from making any major changes to DHS.

Obama Administration: The Obama administration has not taken a public stance on either side of the issue.  Senator Landrieu said Napolitano is “testing the waters” with Congress to find out how members of Congress feel about the issue.  Landrieu emphasized that Napolitano didn’t say removing FEMA from DHS is something the Obama team is considering.

Update 01/15/09: At Janet Napolitano’s confirmation hearing, she didn’t take a stance on either side of the issue, instead promising to actively look into the issue.  But her other testimony about FEMA indicated strong support both for FEMA and for increasing FEMA’s cooperation with the rest of DHS, regardless of where FEMA ends up.

Update 02/25/09: The DHS Inspector General weighed in with a report titled “FEMA: In or Out?“, in which the ID recommends keeping FEMA in DHS.

Other Organizations and Stakeholders: A month ago the International Association of Emergency Managers officially endorsed removing FEMA from DHS (Representatives Oberstar and Thompson publicly disagreed on the issue at that time as well).  In addition, the Heritage Foundation, an influential conservative think tank, weighed in on December 4 with a memo supporting Thompson’s position to leave FEMA as part of DHS.  A number of other organizations and stakeholders have cautioned more generally against any major reorganizations at DHS, even though they may not have addressed FEMA specifically.

Update 01/08/2009: 3 fire service organizations – the IAFC (International Association of Fire Chiefs),  IAFF (International Association of Fire Fighters), and Congressional Fire Services Instituteweigh in against removing FEMA from DHS.

  • The IAFF is affiliated with the AFL-CIO (labor is expected to have some influence in the strongly Democratic Congress), and according to the IAFF web site, “The IAFF is one of the most active lobbying organizations in Washington; its Political Action Committee, FIREPAC, is among the top one percent of the more than 4,000 federal PACs in the country.”
  • So expect these 3 organizations to carry some weight, and for Congress to resist if the Obama administration pushes to separate FEMA from DHS.

Potential Conflicts: In Oberstar’s letter to Obama he declared that his committee has jurisdiction over FEMA and that making FEMA independent would have strong support in Congress.  However, the overlapping nature of Congressional oversight of DHS makes it likely that other Congressional Committees, including the House Committee on Homeland Security that Thompson chairs, will lay some claim to FEMA oversight as well.

Expectations (My Take): Expect continued public discussion and debate, but expect Obama to take some time before making a decision.  And regardless of what his final decision is, don’t expect a change to FEMA any time soon.  Obama tends to be a consensus builder, and feelings are strong enough on this issue that even if Obama decides to remove FEMA from DHS, he’ll probably go slow, taking time to build a broader base of support for the change before implementing it.

UPDATE 12/24/08: It’s important to note that one of the reasons there is resistance to making FEMA independent of DHS again is that some important entanglements between FEMA and DHS have already been established in terms of politics, funding, and already enacted legislation (which was written to apply to DHS as a whole).  It could get pretty messy to separate them at this point.  For example, allocation of funds for the DHS Homeland Security Grants Program (HSGP) is performed by the FEMA Grants Directorate, and moving that function to DHS could cause confusion and funding changes all the way down to the state and local level.  So if FEMA is ultimately pulled out of DHS, expect some ripples and unintended consequences in unexpected areas.

Update 02/25/09: At this point, I’d say the momentum is clearly on the side of keeping FEMA in DHS, and I’m going to stop updating this post.  If this changes and the momentum seems to swing the other way, I’ll publish a new post.

DHS IG report recommends greater HSIN responsiveness

From Homeland Security Today:

The information-sharing network of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) must do a better job of meeting its customers needs, concluded a report from the department’s inspector general (IG) released December 5th.

The IG report, titled “DHS’ Efforts to Improve the Homeland Security Information Network” (HSIN), found widespread dissatisfaction with the capabilities of the data network from state and local officials searching it for information. The department is upgrading the HSIN to its next generation version, which it argues will resolve many of the concerns about the existing network.

The report recommends that DHS provide resources to improve relationships with its HSIN users and provide them with adequate opportunities to provide feedback on the network. The department also should develop scenario-based training for stakeholders, include performance metrics in any future HSIN developments, and make clear how it uses the information in HSIN.

Obama names DHS transition team

From CQ Politics:

President-elect Barack Obama ’s transition team named Clark Kent Ervin (DHS’s first Inspector General) and Robert R. Beers (former national security advisor to John Kerry in 2004) to lead the group that will review the Department of Homeland Security and make personnel and policy suggestions, .

The role of the Agency Review Teams is to conduct reviews that provide information to Obama and other key players on budget, personnel and policy matters.

Obama and McCain representatives on DHS and transition

From Government Security News:

Representatives of both presidential campaigns participated in an interesting seminar on the DHS transition program in Washington last Wednesday, hosted by Clark Kent Ervin, the director of the homeland security program at the nonprofit Aspen Institute and the former (and first) inspector general at DHS.

Rachana “Ruchi” Bhowmik, who covers the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee for Senator Obama (a member of that panel) represented her boss at the seminar.

C. Stewart Verdery, Jr., a former assistant secretary of DHS for policy and planning and now a Washington lobbyist went out of his way to note that though he was sitting behind the microphone, he was not “formally” representing McCain’s campaign at the seminar.

DHS Inspector General cites lapses in TSA badge and uniform security

From USA Today:

The TSA lacked centralized controls over the secure passes issued to some of its employees, according to DHS Inspector General Richard Skinner. The passes grant people access to the most sensitive areas of an airport, such as where baggage is screened or planes are parked.

Investigators found numerous cases in which former employees retained their passes long after they had left the agency, and in which TSA uniforms were not collected when employees left or were transferred.

People using improper badges, IDs or uniforms — particularly in combination — “could significantly increase an airport’s vulnerability to unauthorized access and, potentially, a wide variety of terrorist and criminal acts,” the report said.