The White House wants a 10 percent increase in spending for the year-old Department of Homeland Security. The New York Times reports that the proposal drew criticism from Democrats for sharp cuts in grants to state and local law enforcement agencies. The proposed budget for the department, which consolidated 22 federal agencies into a single department responsible for pre-empting terrorist attacks on American soil, is $40.2 billion, up from $36.5 billion. Overall federal spending for programs within the department will have more than doubled since 2001.
Within the department, however, there was an $800 million cut proposed for the Office for Domestic Preparedness, which is responsible for distributing antiterrorism grants to state and local governments. Aides to Secretary Tom Ridge said the 18 percent cut in the budget, would not hinder the work of first responders like police and fire departments given the amount of federal aid they have received since the Sept. 11 attacks.
Ridge said yesterday that “there are still literally billions and billions of dollars to be distributed” to state and local governments under previous federal antiterrorism budgets. The new budget reflected a reformulation intended to send antiterrorism grants to large cities and other population areas that are likely targets.
A large share of the overall budget increase is dedicated to Project Bioshield, a program to stockpile vaccines and antidotes to counteract an attack with chemical or biological weapons. The department said $2.5 billion would be available for the program next year, compared with $900 million this year.
The administration would increase the FBI’s budget authority by 11 percent to more than $5 billion. At the same time, it would cut spending on many state and local anticrime programs. According to a compilation by the National Criminal Justice Association, the White House would combine nearly $900 million in various accounts to aid police and other criminal justice programs into a Justice Assistance Grant Program of about $600 million.
The Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program begun by President Clinton would also be cut sharply under the White House’s plan. However, Congress last year restored much of the budget reduction for COPS sought by the Bush administration, and that could happen this year, too.