On February 1, 2010, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that the Department’s budget for fiscal year 2011 would be $56 billion. This was the first time for the Democratic Obama Administration to formally unveil its budget priorities after taking over from the Republican Bush Administration. Guess what – it’s more of the same.
The Federal Government’s fiscal year runs from October 1 to September 30, so the Fiscal Year 2011 budget begins on October 1, 2010. Examples of more of the same include more Federal Air Marshals on international flights, 500 more machines at airport checkpoints to detect dangerous materials, 275 more explosive detection canine teams, and more machines to scan 40 foot ocean containers entering the country for weapons of mass destruction, explosives, contraband, and illegal aliens. Compare this with prior budgets or the 2008 Five Year Plan for DHS, and you too may conclude that this is more of the same.
The Department of Homeland Security includes U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Immigration and Customs Enforcement, FEMA, and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. There are 230,000 employees in this mega-Department.
There are 3 items I especially like in the proposed budget.
(1) raising the journeyman level for uniformed Customs Inspectors, Border Patrol Agents and Agricultural Specialists from the GS-11 to GS-12 level (a $10,000 base salary increase to $60,000);
(2) a substantial increase in funding for stopping counterfeit merchandise from entering the United States, something which is very serious when we are talking about medicines, car and aviation parts; and
(3) dual immigration priorities of (a) making it easier for legal immigrants to become citizens, and (b) removing from the United States illegal aliens who have been convicted of a crime, and are serving time in state and local jails.
If people voted for Obama with the expectation of drastic changes in homeland security policies, they will be sorely disappointed. If people who did not vote for Obama were anxious that he would change the course of national security and counter-terrorism efforts of the prior Bush Administration, they will be pleased.
For me, my desires are much simpler. If and when Secretary Napolitano announces that TSA no longer requires us to take off our shoes at the airport, then I’ll know there is progress. When my local police department gets rid of the huge barriers in its parking lot around the police department building, I’ll be pleased. Unfortunately, the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on homeland security efforts since 9/11 will probably not result in my local library soon re-opening the after-hours book return slot.