The Pros And Cons Of The FY08 Budget

I am pleased that the President’s budget includes $1 billion for strengthened border protection, infrastructure and technology, and funding for 3,000 new border patrol agents to help secure our land borders.  The President’s budget also includes funding for the new Offices of Emergency Communications and Health Affairs, both of which were authorized by the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act that Senator Lieberman and I authored.

There are, however, some disappointing budget proposals related to Homeland Security, about which I am concerned.  For example the fiscal year 2008 budget proposal again highlights the chronic and troubling under funding of first responder grant programs.  This year’s budget proposal includes only $250 million for the State Homeland Security Grant Program, a reduction of $275 million from last year’s level.  All states, including my home state of Maine, rely on these grant dollars for first responder activities such as emergency planning, risk assessments, equipment, and training exercises. A funding reduction of this magnitude will be a severe blow to states’ abilities to prevent, prepare for, and respond to terrorist attacks and other emergencies.

I am also very disappointed that the Administration has not proposed to fully fund port security grants at the $400 million as was authorized by the SAFE Port Act, which Senator Murray and I wrote.  The $210 million included in the budget falls short of the needs American ports have to strengthen security.

Upon Congressional approval of the compromise chemical security legislation as part of the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act for 2007, DHS was granted, for the first time, the authority to regulate thousands of our nation’s high risk chemical facilities. I am concerned that the President’s request of $25 million for a chemical security regulatory program will be insufficient to get this crucial program off the ground.