Appropriator lists grants, cybersecurity among priorities

Appropriator lists grants, cybersecurity among priorities
Appropriator lists grants, cybersecurity among priorities 

By Chris Strohm  
June 10, 2008

A key House Democrat Tuesday said appropriators will give priority to 
first responder grant programs, all-hazards preparedness and 
cybersecurity when they mark up the fiscal 2009 Homeland Security 
Appropriations bill Wednesday.

"I think it's not too hard to predict the kind of emphasis that the bill 
will contain," House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee 
Chairman David Price, D-N.C., told the Security Industry Association in 
a speech. "This is a bill, the hallmark of which has been focusing on 
first responders, focusing on natural disaster preparedness and relief, 
and trying to think ahead of the curve in terms of the kinds of 
protections that we need to put in place. So there are no radical 
discontinuities between last year's bill and this one."

Price would not discuss any details of spending levels in the bill, 
saying it is still being put together.

The Bush administration has requested $38 billion in discretionary 
spending for the department.

Last year, the Democratic-led panel boosted funding for the grant 
programs above what the administration was requesting. The 
administration is seeking about $2.2 billion for those programs in 
fiscal 2009, about $1.5 billion less than Congress allocated for the 
current fiscal year.

"It's especially important as we pull this department together and 
respond to new threats ... not to let deteriorate the conventional 
capabilities that we had going into this new era," Price said. "It 
shouldn't be a trade off. It shouldn't be swapping out one set of 
priorities and capabilities for another. We need to prepare for all 
hazards. That's really the challenge for this department."

In one area, though, Price said the bill will make cybersecurity a high 
priority. The department has requested nearly $300 million for its role 
in the administration's cybersecurity initiative.

Price said his panel's legislation is on pace to be the first spending 
bill to move through the House, which he said could be problematic.

"To the extent that there are controversies simmering or to the extent 
there are people who want to create controversies, the first bill out of 
the block is certainly vulnerable to that kind of political 
gamesmanship," he said.

He noted that the fiscal 2008 Homeland Security spending bill was held 
hostage on the House floor last summer over an unrelated but highly 
partisan dispute over the disclosure of earmarks. The dispute triggered 
29 recorded votes and nine parliamentary motions to adjourn.

Price said he believes most spending bills will make it through the 
House before the August recess but then face "formidable" obstacles in 
the Senate and with the White House. "The process is going to be rather 
messy in the end," he said.

"My guess is that although these bills will make it through the House I 
think you will see in the fall a series of continuing resolutions which 
keep the funding going at last year's level on in to the new fiscal 
year," he said. More likely than not, he said, Congress will have to 
pass an omnibus appropriations bill before a new administration comes 
into office. "I think it's extremely likely that's the kind of process 
you will see this year," he said.

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