It is likely that many of the priority areas fundamental to earlier homeland security funding projects will continue to be important in the next fiscal year. Training, equipment purchases and other efforts designed to prepare and protect first responders will rank high on the list of priorities for states and municipalities.
The administration continues to place a high priority on protecting our borders through programs such as US-VISIT, which tracks visa visitors through photos and biometrics. With the cooperation of Mexico and Canada via the Smart Border Declaration, it is expected that we will see enhanced security at established US points of entry. The proposed project Bioshield, intended to expedite the development of new vaccines to combat bioterrorism, and the Biowatch program, which helps track health issues that may serve as an early warning sign of a possible bioterrorist attack, continue to be the chief developments on the healthcare front.
Altogether, the administration has requested $3.06 billion in funding for first-responder grants for the 2005 fiscal year as part of the $40.2 billion homeland-security budget. Expansions enabled through this 10 percent increase from the previous fiscal year include a $411 million increase in port and maritime, border, immigration and customs security; the US-VISA program, currently active at 115 airports and 14 seaports, is slated for a $340 million expansion to additional points of entry. Other highlights:
The largest winner in the new budget may be Project Bioshield, which has commanded a $2.5 billion request. Initial funding will enable bio-surveillance in metropolitan areas and other likely terrorist targets, as well as support the purchase of medical countermeasures.
The Transportation Security Agency (TSA) expects to receive an additional $890 million to enhance baggage screening through the integration of explosive-detection system equipment into airport baggage processing.
US Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE), the investigative bureau of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is slated to receive a 10 percent overall budget increase in order to double current worksite enforcement efforts and significantly increase the department’s capacity to detain and remove illegal aliens. An additional $60 million is planned to expedite immigration processing withoutsacrificing security.
A $380 million funding increase—10 percent over last year’s budget—will help ICE dramatically increase its capacity to detain and remove illegal aliens.
$140 million will be available to reduce the immigrant backlog and enable six-month processing of immigration applications by 2006.
The ODP grants outlook
The big news in grants for the Office of Domestic Preparedness (ODP) is the expansion of the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI). The FY 2005 Homeland Security budget calls for a 65 percent increase, or a total of $1.2 billion to support the program. Once again, cities will be selected based on four primary criteria: population density, vulnerability, critical infrastructure; and evaluated threat information, which is ongoing. To date, the ODP is not certain when the list of urban areas will be released.
The most notable change between the 2005 budget and the actual budget deliberations is the lack of funding for the proposed UASI Targeted Infrastructure Protection Grants, which formerly had a requested budget of $200 million. Funds were to be used to support critical infrastructures such as dams, nuclear power plants, highways, railways and tunnels. Unfortunately, no funds have been proposed for this program.
The Citizen Corps, a volunteer coordinating group, expects to receive $50 million, a 25 percent increase from the previous year.
ODP also has assumed control over grant programs previously administered by the TSA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Marc Short, director of communications for the ODP, asserts that to date there are no plans to change the focus or administrative aspects of the program. In other words, grant-seekers familiar with programs such as Port Security Grants and Emergency Management Performance Grants will not see many changes as a result of the new administrative oversight.
Regarding the new budget projections, Sue Mencer, director of ODP, said: “The funding requests illustrate President Bush’s commitment to defending our land and ensuring that citizens are prepared.”
Of the many unknowns preceding final budget deliberations, the election is foremost in many people’s minds. However, it’s not clear whether an administration change would truly and substantively alter homeland-security funding. Many of the talking points of the Kerry campaign are at least superficially similar to those that have been key to homeland-security funding throughout the Bush administration.
However, some expected differences in focus occur. The Kerry campaign, for example, is somewhat more focused on the needs of first responders and, specifically, the need for additional hires and training, while the Bush administration is more concerned about the mass screening of individuals who arrive in this country. The Kerry campaign, through proposed programs like the Community Defense Service and an expanded homeland security-oriented Americorps program, seeks to involve more private citizens in homeland-security efforts. Both administrations appear to approach private infrastructure with a certain amount of deference to its economic circumstances. While mandates would be unfunded, most new actions would be recommended rather than required.
What would an administration change mean to homeland security professionals within the United States? In most sectors, probably very little. States would still be able to exercise the discretion they’ve used in the past; efforts that directly benefit first responders would still be considered a national, regional and local priority; and efforts would still creep along at the federal level to streamline and enhance counterterrorism intelligence and interagency cooperation.
Regardless of who sits in the Oval Office, we can anticipate increased emphasis in a few homeland-security sectors, most notably an increased awareness of the needs and current best practices in port security.
With a $411 million projected budget increase, portsecurity will likely be a top homeland security funding priority, regardless of which administration is in office. Both the Bush and the Kerry campaigns, for example, allude to growing concern over container security.
Maritime security: A primer
Retired Coast Guard Adm. Paul Pluta has had front-row seats to changing maritime-security policies over much of his professional life. Now serving as senior vice president for homeland security at UNITECH which provides technical and management support in training and simulation, government and aviation solutions, sustaining operations and homeland security, Pluta contracts with ports and other facilities nationwide to enhance security.
Throughout his tenure in the Coast Guard and in the private sector, he’s seen the focus of maritime security evolve from the protection of economic interests to the prevention of a maritime equivalent of Sept. 11,2001. In his view, port and maritime security policy has steadily changed since the early post-Cold War climate, in which the top priority was mitigating criminal activity, such as piracy and smuggling. The Achille Lauro hijacking in 1985 changed all that, serving as an early wake-up call that not only American interests but American lives could be threatened at sea.
Yet it wasn’t until the Port and Maritime Security Act, introduced by Sen. Ernest “Fritz” Hollings (D-SC) and signed into law a mere 14 months after the 9/11 attacks as the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA), that the new direction in port security was addressed through federal law. The bill mandated a coordinated effort among the Coast Guard, Customs Service and Immigration and Naturalization Service, along with local port authorities, to create area maritime security committees and develop area security plans for facilities and vessels. These committees and plans continue to bear on port-security funding decisions.
The MTSA also required the federal government to create regulations ensuring the implementation of
the law. In sum, as Admiral Pluta explained, MTSA “became the nucleus for the plans to avoid a maritime 9/11.” Moreover, the related International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code) required that standards be sought and established to prevent dangerous, illicit materials from reaching American ports. To date, more than 100 nations have signed on. The MTSA and ISPS Code affect approximately 10,000 vessels, 5,000 facilities, 40 outer continental shelf facilities and 2,500 foreign ports.
July 1, 2004, marked the implementation deadline for MTSA regulations. In advance of the deadline, DHS released more than $516 million in grants through the Port Security Grant Program over the past three years. The increased funding for 2005 promises to continue the work initiated over the course of the last few years.
Key to the enhancement of port security are efforts designed to address the thorny issue of cargo security. While the ISPS Code has helped enforce best practices with cargo security since July 1, additional funds will be dedicated to expand pre-screening of cargo before it reaches the United States. Under the current budget plan, the Coast Guard will receive an 8 percent increase in funding to continue to enhance port security and implement the MTSA.
The bulk of the grant funding for port security, similar to funding in other homeland- security areas, supported infrastructure improvement, such as surveillance equipment, access control, physical security, lighting and, in the words of Pluta, who participated in the initial proposal review efforts, “quick fixes to make obvious security improvements.” In FY 2004, these included, according to DHS’ Secure Seas, Open Ports report, “increased identification checks on crew members and visitors to the ports; additional canine detection teams; expanded baggage and passenger screening efforts; strategically placed perimeter fencing equipped with newly installed surveillance cameras; targeted restricted access to sensitive areasof the port;
X-ray machines on all large cruise ships; additional employee-training procedures; increased security patrols; and implementation of a robust certification program to ensure foreign flagged vessels docking in US ports have met the international security requirements.”
Nonetheless, these more evident needs were and continue to be balanced with security assessments to forecast subsequent, less obvious actions. The Coast Guard is the lead federal agency charged with implementing maritime-security laws and regulations; for example, conducting security assessments on US ports, requiring exercises intended to detect, deter and respond to possible terrorist plots, and ensuring that required security training is conducted. These assessments are intended to gauge vulnerabilities, determine access control and individual identification systems, create protocols for cargo screening, which Pluta described as “the knottiest issue in port security,” and recognize possible single points of failure.
Once a complete assessment is performed and a security plan developed based on those schematics, it is necessary to train all personnel to recognize security threats and understand protocol for addressing unusual activities.
While, according to Pluta, the “initial hurdle has been overcome,” the current challenge—and one likely to be addressed through the FY 2005 round of grants—is to continue to aggressively tackle infrastructure improvements and conduct ongoing training. No matter how many structural improvements are made, security will not be possible unless training continues to be a priority. “We must,” Pluta noted, “invest in our human capital.”
The emphasis on assessment and planning has created best-practice models that can be tailored to suit the needs of different ports. For example, Unitech has worked closely with the Port of Charleston, SC, the fourth-largest container port in the country, to create a cooperative interagency security initiative involving local, state and federal agencies.
“Charleston’s a great site for testing maritime security technology, policy and procedure,” Pluta commented, adding that, due to the size of the port, “the lessons learned there can be scaled up to apply to larger ports such as New York or LA, or scaled down to fit smaller ports nationwide.”
Round five of the Port Security Grant Program, now administered by ODP, will likely commence in late spring 2005.
There’s been much talk recently of whether the red-blue divisions that have polarized the United States are really as deep or as divisive as the pundits would have it. Despite the many very real policy differences between the two primary parties, there is no small amount of commonality on certain issues: the nation’s borders and other points of entry must be protected to a larger extent than currently; the American populace can be more actively engaged in protecting each other through citizen-driven deterrence, response and awareness programs; our nation’s health resources must be enhanced to respond to bioterrorist attacks or other health emergencies; and training and resources for first responders must be provided on a continuous basis.
Our common protection may be politicized. Power plays may interfere with homeland security objectives. But there is some reassurance in the fact that there is so much agreement regarding the fundamental security needs of our borders, ports and urban areas. Necessity being the mother of invention and cooperation, we can anticipate making some steps forward regardless of the current political climate. HST
Kara Mitzel is manager of grants development services at the Grants Office, LLC, in Rochester, NY, a national grants consulting firm specializing in homeland-security funding.