Aviation Security and Border Security Favored in Senate Stimulus Bill’s $4.7B DHS Package

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Although somewhat reduced from the initial Senate stimulus package, the 800-page final version of the Senate Stimulus Bill will come as good news to homeland security-oriented industries. The attacks on this final version coming from both sides of the isle, however sonorous, are not expected to result in dramatic changes to the Bill. A markedly heavier dosage of earmarking and a more controlled approach to expenditure overall characterize the Senate Stimulus Bill this time around, at least as regards DHS. This tendency in the new Bill is especially noticeable as regards aviation and border security. Aside from projects run directly by the DHS, additional funding channels have been secured for titles such as law enforcement, mass transit and port security, which are homeland security-related yet managed by other branches of government. The Senate is due to vote on its stimulus bill Tuesday, followed by both its and the Houses’ versions being taken up to a joint committee for purposes of settling respective differences in agenda. Preparations for this undertaking have already begun, with aides from both parties meeting on Sunday. Let us turn to some of the specifics of the Senate Stimulus Bill. One of its biggest investments would be the Transportation Security Administration (TNA) which would get $1 billion “for procurement and installation of checked baggage explosives detection systems and checkpoint explosives detection equipment.” Although $200 million less than included in the original Senate stimulus bill, $1 billion to TNA is a $500 million increase from the House version. A statement issued Sunday by the Senate Committee on Appropriations explained that “these funds will allow TSA to address high priority projects at approximately 20 airports” and “will also allow TSA to purchase new checkpoint technologies necessary to improve its explosive detection capabilities and respond to newly identified threats”. The Committee stressed that “today, only 25 percent of airports are fully equipped with optimal screening systems”. Also, the Committee noted that “an insufficient number of air passengers today are screened by technology that can identify explosive threats”. It is also mentioned that “a TSA investment study concluded that $8.2 billion over 20 years is necessary to procure new optimal screening systems at airports.” All in all, the procurement and deployment of new technology appears to be a leitmotif of Article VI. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) would receive $200 million for “expedited development and deployment of border security technology” along the Southeast (US/Mexico) border, $198 million for “procurement and deployment of non-intrusive inspection systems to improve port security”, and $97.2 million “for tactical communications equipment and radios”. Other funding related to border security includes $90 million for competitive grants to “provide assistance and equipment to local law enforcement along the Southern border and in High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas to combat criminal narcotics activity stemming from the Southern border”. Coast Guard would receive $450 million for “Acquisition, Construction, and Improvements” which incorporate shore and navigation facilities, the repair and renovation of vessels and the alteration of bridges. The Federal Emergency Management Agency would receive over $1.5 billion in all; state and local-level programs (mostly about transportation, railroad and port security) would receive most of the remaining $950 million. $500 million would go to “protection from all-hazards” as defined by the Patriot Act (which speaks of infrastructure the incapacity or destruction of which “would have a debilitating impact on security, national economic security, national public health or safety”). $500 million would go to competitive grants “for modifying, upgrading, or constructing State and local fire stations”. The Office of the Under Secretary for Management would get $198 million “solely for planning, design, and construction costs, including site security, information technology infrastructure, fixtures, and related costs to consolidate the department of Homeland Security Headquarters”. The Senate Committee on Appropriations earmarked $800 million “to reduce the $6 billion construction backlog for points of entry on our borders, which will improve security and facilitate commerce”. Overall, proposed legislation by both houses seems to bode well for DHS. This is especially true as involves aviation security and border security, which apparently will not be weakened by the financial crisis, but rather upgraded.