Senator appropriators urge 'proven technologies' for border but mostly fund the DHS technology budget


The Homeland Security Department should focus on "proven technologies" such as remote video sensors and mobile surveillance systems for use by Customs and Border Protection along America's borders, states the report accompanying the Senate Appropriations Committee's July 15 markup of the department's fiscal 2011 budget request. The federal fiscal year starts on Oct. 1.

The language comes from a written discussion of SBInet, the department's multi-billion dollar program to blanket U.S. borders with a chain of radars, cameras and heat and motion detectors, allowing border patrol agents working from a common operational picture to make targeted responses to incursions. SBInet has cost $1.9 billion so far, or 564 percent more than the initial projected cost. The prime contractor is Boeing (NYSE: BA).

Senate appropriations voted to fully fund DHS's $574.2 million request for border security fencing, infrastructure and technology. The only note of caution sounded by the senators is a statement that "while the program is under strong leadership at this point, it is imperative that outstanding issues must be resolved quickly." The vote on the bill was 17 for, 12 against, broken down along party lines.

While the Senate appropriator's numbers are far from final--the full Senate must also vote on the bill and then reconcile with an eventual House version--they provide the first glimpse so far of how the department's request might fare on the Hill. The House Appropriations Committee plans to meet July 27 to markup its DHS bill.

Senate appropriators also granted the US-VISIT program its full $334.6 million request, stating that they "strongly support" electronically collecting fingerprints from departing foreigners. DHS originally faced a deadline of June 30, 2009, to put in place such an exit system; having missed it, the United States cannot add new countries to the visa waiver program.

Transportation Security Administration plans to buy an additional 503 full body scanners--known as advanced imaging technology scanners--and didn't receive any Senate appropriator objections since they voted to fully fund the $192.2 million request to bring up the number of scanners to 1,000.

Other big-ticket technology efforts also received their requested funding amount from Senate appropriators, such as TSA's Secure Flight ($84.6 million); CBP's  Automated Commercial Environment/International Trade Data System ($153 million); and the Coast Guard's Rescue 21 ($36 million).

The National Cyber Security Division even received a plus-up, with Senate appropriators adding $9 million for cybersecurity protection and response activities, driving up total NCSD funding to $387.7 million.

The DHS chief information officer, however, will receive $16 million less than requested during the next fiscal year under the committee markup. DHS requested $398.5 million for the CIO in fiscal 2011 appropriations, a substantial amount more than the $338.4 million appropriated for the current fiscal year.

For more:
- read the report accompanying the Senate Appropriations Committee fiscal 2011 DHS markup, or go directly to the bill itself

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