• Scientific research, budget cuts, and DHS

    The FY2011 budget of DHS’s Science & Technology Directorate (S&T) is $827 million; this year the administration’s budget proposal raised it to $1.2 billion; a measure passed by the House last week cut S&T’s FY2012 budget by 52 percent relative to the current budget — to $398 million; DHS said the cuts would stall development of technologies for border protection, detection of bio-hazards, cargo screening, and seriously disrupt research into domestic IED detection, leaving mass transit vulnerable to attacks; as we consider this dramatic cut, we should accept three things: first, the growing national debt is a threat to the well being of the United States and its security, and must be addressed; there are only two ways to address the debt issue: the government must reduce spending, or it must take in more money, or both; second, every government program must be thoroughly examined to see whether there is a justification to continue it — or continue it at the current level of funding; homeland security programs should not be exempt from such an examination; third, reasonable men and women may differ on the relevant issues: what is the nature of the homeland security threats the United States is facing; what are the best — and most cost effective — ways to meet these threats; can every last research initiative at S&T be convincingly justified?

  • Middlesex County, N.J. gets $1 million for mobile tent system

    Local emergency responders in New Jersey recently received a big boost in disaster preparedness from DHS; last week the county unveiled a new 3,000 square foot mobile structure comprised of interlocking tents and trailers; the tents can be quickly set up to treat victims of a radiological accident, terrorist attack, pandemic, or weather emergency; the tent system can also be outfitted with its own water supply, power generator, and heating and cooling systems. They are even equipped with lights, showers, sinks, and a kitchen; for training purposes, the tents were set up at the Middlesex County College campus; the portable structure, called the Gatekeeper system, cost $1 million and was paid for with DHS grant money; county officials also received DHS grants to purchase mobile radiation detection devices for police officers; the tents and the radiation detectors come as part of a broader government effort to prepare local law enforcement agencies within a forty-five mile radius of New York City for a dirty-bomb attack

  • House drastically cuts DHS science and technology

    The Republican majority in the House last week passed a proposed DHS budget which drastically cuts the department’s Science & Technology Directorate’s (S&T) budget by 52 percent, from $827 million to $398 million; the Obama administration has requested $1.2 billion for that program in fiscal year 2012, which begins on 1 October; the S&T reductions are part of a $1.1 billion reduction in DHS’s overall budget, now $43.4 billion; the proposed DHS budget is $1 billion lower than the FY 2011 funding level, and $3 billion lower than the Obama administration’s request ; DHS officials say the decrease in S&T’s budget will wipe out dozens of programs, stalling the development of technologies for border protection, detection of bio-hazards, cargo screening; also cut will be research into domestic IED detection, leaving mass transit vulnerable to attacks

  • DHS could lose funding for new headquarters

    In the latest rounds of congressional budget cuts, the House has moved to cut funding for the construction of a new headquarters for DHS; the agency had originally planned to build a facility to consolidate the dozens of agencies that currently have thousands of workers scattered among different locations; the House passed a $42.3 billion budget for DHS which was about $3 billion less than what the President had requested; among the cuts were $160 million that DHS had requested to continue developing the new facility

  • Police get $500k for sting operation

    After participating in federal sting operation that shut down Internet gambling businesses, a local police department in Maryland is receiving a check for nearly $500,000; agents from Anne Arundel Police Department went undercover to assist DHS officials seize millions of dollars in a sting operation; the money comes from a gambling case where federal investigators in Baltimore established a dummy gambling company that handled more than $33 million in transactions

  • Glimmer of hope for Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository project

    Over the last twenty-five years, the United States has spent around $15 billion on the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository which was supposed to offer a solution to the growing nuclear waste problems at U.S. nuclear power plants; in what some charged was a political move by President Barack Obama to secure Nevada’s Democratic tilt, the administration defunded the project, and funding for work on the site was terminated altogether effective with the 2011 federal budget passed by Congress on 14 April 2011; some in Congress want the project to continue, and the House Appropriations Committee has added $35 million for the project in the 2012 energy spending bill; this is far cry from past appropriations for the project — typically around $400 million a year — and even one of the supporters, Representative Mark Simpson (R-Idaho) described it as symbolic gesture; there is also a case now being heard in federal court, in which the administration is charged with overstepping its bounds by cancelling the project without congressional permission

  • Homeland security is big business

    According to financial analysts the homeland security business is still growing nearly ten years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks; analysts project that the market for homeland security goods like body scanners, radiation detectors, and surveillance cameras will grow 12 percent each year until 2013; the market for x-ray and body scanners is set to grown steadily at 15 percent annually as airports begin replacing aging equipment and the market expands; analysts say that the primary driver for future growth will be in cargo screening at airports and seaports as only a small percentage of cargo is currently scanned

  • Ventura County, CA loses $2.8 million in funding

    In the latest Homeland Security budget, Ventura County, California is expected to lose about 70 percent, about $2.8 million, of its federal grant money, a large setback for the county’s emergency responders; with the loss of federal money, county officials believe police and fire departments will be less prepared to respond in an emergency; prior to 9/11, the county had little money available for emergency preparedness, but following 9/11 the county has received more than $22 million to bolster response capabilities; officials are most concerned about the loss of training opportunities

  • Senators outline long-term transportation spending plan

    On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of senators announced that they had come to an agreement on a long-term transportation spending bill; since 2008, highway and transit construction programs have had an uncertain fate, but the proposed bill would allocate roughly $56 billion a year to highway and transit construction; it is unclear what the final bill will look like as the Senate, House, and executive branch each have diverging views on highway funding; funding the transportation bill will be no small feat; a two year Senate bill would require $12 billion in additional fuel tax revenues and a six year bill would require an addition $70 billion

  • DHS announces Preparedness Grants

    DHS announced $2.1 billion in preparedness grants to states, urban areas, non-profit agencies, and the private sector; in FY 2011, DHS grants were reduced by $780 million from the FY 2010 enacted level, nearly a quarter of FY 2010 DHS grant funding; the grants focus on the highest risk cities which, according to DHS, continue to face the most significant threats; more than $662 million will go to enhance regional preparedness and capabilities in thirty-one high-threat, high-density areas, and more than $526 million will go to support the implementation of state homeland security strategies to build and strengthen preparedness capabilities

  • Analysts question wisdom of DHS spending

    As U.S. lawmakers battle to cut the deficit and reduce spending, some are beginning to question if the billions of dollars being poured into counter-terrorism measures are cost effective; in calculating the costs for America’s efforts to combat violent extremism both domestically and abroad, two university professors estimated that the U.S. government spent more than $1 trillion from 2002 to 2011; argues that funds allocated to enhanced security measures are a gross misallocation of resources and that DHS has not conducted proper cost-benefit analysis of projects before spending large sums of money

  • New York firefighters receive $4.2 million to recruit volunteers

    Last week the Fireman’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) announced that it had received a $4.2 million grant from DHS to help recruit and train volunteers; the money comes as part of DHS’ Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program; FASNY will use the grant money to launch a public awareness campaign with the goal of attracting and maintaining more than 15,000 new volunteer firefighters over the next four years; approximately 75 percent of New York’s firefighters are volunteers, but the state has struggled to attract enough people in recent years

  • California receiving more and more DHS funding

    Each year the state of California has received increasing amounts of DHS grant money to combat terrorism; last year California received $268 million dollars from the agency, roughly 16 percent of the $1.7 billion that DHS awarded nationally; San Francisco alone has received $200 million; not all Californians are pleased with the large amount of funding that the state receives from DHS; Robert Reich, President Clinton’s Secretary of Labor and a professor of public policy at U.C. Berkeley, believes that the large grants are symptomatic of wasteful government spending

  • DHS offers grants for interoperable border communication

    DHS announced $25.5 million in grant funding under the Border Interoperability Demonstration Project (BIDP) — a one-time competitive grant program focused on developing solutions to strengthen interoperable emergency communications along the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico

  • U.S. reducing number of data centers, moving to the cloud

    The U.S. government operates 2,100 data centers; these centers, together, occupy more than 350,000 square feet; to cut cost and increase security, the government plans to close 137 of the centers by the end of the year, part of a broader plan to close 800 data center within the next five years; in addition, 100 e-mail systems serving about one million government employees will be moved to the cloud