(Rep. Geoff Davis, R-Ky. (4th CD), issued the following press release)
On May 17 the US House approved the Fiscal Year 2006 Homeland Security Appropriations bill totaling $30.85 billion for operations and activities of the Department of Homeland Security.
The bill provides $19.4 billion for border protection, immigration enforcement, hiring of Border Patrol agents, and vehicle and cargo inspection technology, among other items. It also contains $3.6 billion for first responders, fire fighters and emergency management. The Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Air Marshals, which both fall under the Department of Homeland Security, will see $6.4 billion for operations related to improving transportation safety.
“Congress has taken monumental steps forward to protect our country by strengthening our homeland security,” said Congressman Geoff Davis. “This appropriations bill is important so that we can continue funding operations critical to keeping us safe here at home.”
The appropriations bill also includes some necessary oversight provisions designed to make the Department of Homeland Security more responsive to Congress. Since its inception, the Department has repeatedly refused to provide Congress with detailed spending plans and has disregarded direction to implement critical national policies.
There are more than $485 million in funding reductions because Congress was not given information it requested about programs and operations, and more than $310 million in funding is being withheld until the Department performs certain action, such as implementing new air-cargo screening standards, developing a comprehensive border-security enforcement strategy and submitting a plan to install explosive-detection technologies at airports.
The oversight provisions either reduce or withhold funding because of overdue reports or withhold or reduce funding due to a lack of responsiveness to Congress. The Transportation Security Agency headquarters is down $50 million until it submits a plan to deploy explosive-detection systems at airports and a spending plan to procure these systems on an airport-by-airport basis.
This is critical to the Fourth District since the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport is still without a fully automated baggage-screening process. Currently, highly-trained baggage screeners are hand-carrying bags from the conveyor belt to the explosive-detection machine and then back to the conveyor belt. Not only does this contribute to workplace injuries, but the skills of these screeners are being wasted.
“The TSA still has not given a satisfactory answer as to why the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport does not have a fully automated system,” Davis said. “It’s unfortunate that Congress has to take the drastic step of withholding or reducing funding, but it seems to be the only way to prevent the Department of Homeland Security from running roughshod over us as we attempt to account for taxpayer dollars.
“If the only way we can force the Department to be accountable is to reduce or withhold funding, then that is what we will do. And let this serve as a warning to other departments and agencies: When Congress asks how you are spending taxpayer dollars, you better be ready to answer.” (US Fed News)