The FY 2006 Budget Request for Homeland Security: A Congressional Guide for Making America Safer

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The FY 2006 Budget Request for Homeland Security: A Congressional Guide for Making America Safer

March 18, 2005 24 min read Download Report
Jim Carafano
Vice President, Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute
James Jay Carafano is a leading expert in national security and foreign policy challenges.

The Bush Administration's budget request for fis­cal year (FY) 2006 calls for $49.9 billion in total funding for homeland security,1 an increase of approximately 8.6 percent in real (inflation-adjusted) terms over the FY 2005 budget.2 This pro­posal represents appropriate growth in homeland security expenditures, a responsible effort to align spending with strategic priorities, and progress in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Consistent with the FY 2005 budget, the Admin­istration's funding priorities dovetail well with the critical mission areas established in the national homeland security strategy. The President's pro­posed budget makes difficult funding choices in each area. It also proposes essential management initiatives such as strengthening DHS policymak­ing and planning and programs to screen people and cargo.

Congress should support the Administration's request without additional earmarks. The House of Representatives and the Senate should turn their attention to fashioning an authorization bill that improves oversight of DHS activities, formalizing the distribution of grants to state and local governments based on strategic needs, and promoting efforts to reorganize the DHS so that its operations can be more efficient and effective.

A Brief History of Homeland
Security Spending

Before the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, the federal government did not distinguish homeland security as a distinct funding category. Thus, there are scant authorita­tive data on previous domestic security efforts to compare to post-September 11 spending on home­land security. Nevertheless, an assessment of recent federal spending finds that funding for responding to terrorist threats began before 9/11. Between FY 1995 and FY 2001, the federal government increased domestic security spending in the regular annual appropriations bills from $9 billion to $16 billion, an increase of 60 percent.3[1]

In many areas, however, growth was extremely modest. From 1995 to 2000, expenditures for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) preparedness grew from effectively zero to $1.5 billion.[4] Overall, while increased spending reflected a tacit recogni­tion of the growing danger of transnational terror­ism, it was woefully inadequate to creating a national homeland security system capable of effec­tively integrating federal, state, and local govern­ment assets as well as private-sector assets.[5]

In contrast, federal spending on homeland secu­rity grew dramatically after 9/11. Congress approved $64 billion in emergency funding, including $20 billion for FY 2001 and $44 billion (in two separate supplemental appropriations) for FY 2002. Perhaps one-third of the $64 billion was directed to homeland security programs and activ­ities. The Administration spent $42.4 billion on homeland security in FY 2003.[6] Altogether, between FY 2001 and FY 2003, funding for home­land security was increased by some 240 percent.[7]

In the FY 2004 budget, overall spending on homeland security ($40.7 billion) actually declined slightly in real terms, largely because of a large sup­plemental appropriation (over $6 billion) in FY 2003 that included many one-time costs, such as added security measures in response to national homeland security advisory warnings and Depart­ment of Defense force protection enhancements.[8] Stabilizing funding for two years was prudent. While enormous security challenges remain, allow­ing the many agencies involved some time to absorb the large increases since 9/ 11 made sense, particularly since this period saw the creation of the DHS and consolidation of a workforce of over 180,000 personnel spread around the country and the world under its author­ity. The FY 2004 budget also marked the first complete congressional appropria­tions cycle for the DHS.

For FY 2005, federal homeland secu­rity spending was increased to $46 bil­lion. For the most part, the additional funding reflected the maturing of DHS programs and, equally important, a bol­stering of domestic security, counterter­rorism, critical infrastructure protection, and preparedness programs in other fed­eral agencies.

Although the Administration refined its accounting of homeland security spending, congressional oversight of this spending remained fragmented. Both houses established homeland security appropriations subcommittees to draft budgets for the DHS, but neither chamber had a permanent committee to oversee the depart­ment. In addition, Congress failed to provide a sep­arate authorization bill for homeland security spending.

Homeland Security: The Federal Effort

Critical mission areas are essential tasks that must be performed to protect the nation from ter­rorist threats. The National Strategy for Homeland Security identifies six critical mission areas: intelli­gence and warning, border and transportation security, domestic counterterrorism, protecting critical infrastructure and key assets, defending against catastrophic threats, and emergency pre­paredness and response.[9] The FY 2006 budget pro­posal designates how funding across the federal government supports each critical mission area. (See Table 1.)


Homeland security spending cuts across 33 fed­eral entities. Even after the consolidation of over two dozen agencies, offices, and activities, many federal entities outside the DHS retain important homeland security functions, as in the proposed FY 2006 budget.

The DHS budget accounts for 55 percent of all domestic security expenditures.[10] The homeland security budgets of the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, Justice, Energy, and State, along with the DHS, account for 94 percent of proposed homeland security funding.[11] (See Table 2.)


Strategic Principles for Homeland Security Funding

Evaluating how well the Administration has matched strategic plans to its funding priorities is a daunting but critical task. As the Congressional Budget Office points out, homeland security activ­ities are funded through 200 different appropria­tions accounts.[12] Increased spending on homeland security alone is not the measure of success. Addi­tional resources are appropriate only if they can be invested efficiently and effectively and contribute substantively to the strategic goal of creating the layered and integrated domestic security system outlined in the national strategy.

Congress needs to consider how all of these efforts are expected to work in concert. Merely dis­bursing funds to meet the many demands risks spending a little on everything without providing much security for anything. Investing in the wrong priorities could be equally troubling.

The Heritage Foundation has outlined a set of strategic guiding principles from which to evaluate the effectiveness of homeland security spending.[13] Measured against these principles, the FY 2006 budget represents responsible spending. In partic­ular, the budget addresses well the top three prin­ciples for appropriate spending.

Principle #1: Build a National Homeland Security System

The highest priority for federal spending must be to create a true national preparedness system, not merely to supplement the needs of state and local governments. Washington's greatest responsibility in building a national system is accomplishing the unique roles and missions that belong to the federal government-duties that are not the primary con­cern of state and local governments or the private sector.

The Administration has two key responsibilities in this area, and the proposed budget reflects both priorities. Specifically, the federal government is primarily responsible for:

  • Stopping foreign terrorists before they attack American citizens. Thus, activities that disrupt or prevent terrorist acts should receive the highest priority. In the FY 2006 budget proposals, these initiatives comprise 57 percent of total domestic security spend­ing, a 2 percentage point increase over FY 2005.[14]
  • Protecting federal critical infrastructure. Of the $22.7 billion in homeland security spend­ing by federal departments and agencies out­side the DHS, $12.8 billion (56 percent) is for critical infrastructure programs.

After seeing to its own responsibilities, the fed­eral government properly has the task of con­structing a national system that allows state and local governments and the private sector to par­ticipate in an effective domestic national security network. This includes providing state and local governments with the capability to integrate their counterterrorism, preparedness, and response efforts into the national system and expanding their capacity to coordinate support, share resources, and exchange and exploit information. In addition, the federal government must enhance its own capacity to increase situational awareness of national homeland security activi­ties and to shift resources where and when they are needed.

Simply giving states and local governments money to increase their capacity to respond to a terrorist attack is the wrong answer. Such an approach will not help to build a national system. Additionally, the cost of equipping every state and U.S. territory with sufficient resources to conduct each critical homeland security task could run into the hundreds of billions of dollars.[15]XREF Although the federal government has a responsibility to assist states and cities in providing for homeland security, it cannot service every one of their needs. Indeed, state and local governments are having difficulty absorbing and efficiently using the federal funds that are already available.[16]

A hallmark of the President's proposed FY 2006 budget is the restraint demonstrated in providing grants to state and local governments and the efforts to restructure DHS grants to focus them on strategic needs rather than giving fixed allocations to individual states. The Administration has pro­posed $3.4 billion in grants, a reduction from the $3.6 billion allocated in FY 2005.[17] The budget also calls for the Department of Health and Human Services to distribute about $1.3 billion in grants to improve state and local health services and hospital preparedness.[18] In total, the budget allocates $4.7 billion to homeland security assistance, a reduction of about 6 percent.

The Administration has also proposed restruc­turing $2.6 billion in grants. In the FY 2005 bud­get, each state is guaranteed to receive at least 0.75 percent of total funds allocated for the State Home­land Security Grant Program (proposed budget of $1 billion). The Administration has proposed a budget of $1 billion and reducing the minimum state allocation to 0.25 percent. It has further pro­posed consolidating the Law Enforcement Terror­ism Program into the state program and transferring part of the Urban Area Security Initia­tive grants and port, transit system, and other infra­structure grants into a Targeted Infrastructure Protection Program.[19]

The Administration is right to restrain the amount of funds allocated to state and local gov­ernments, given that it has not fully implemented Homeland Security Presidential Directive 8- which would establish national preparedness stan­dards and improve grant allocation by more clearly distributing funds based on concrete threat and vulnerability assessments[20]-and given that Con­gress has failed to pass legislation requiring that grants be allocated according to strategic needs.

No additional earmarks should be made for homeland security grants, and Congress should refrain from just throwing money at the problem. In fact, Congress could strengthen the Administration's effort to target funding strategically by eliminating Assistance to Firefighter Grants (Fire Grants) and moving the proposed $500 million to the general State Homeland Security Grant Program. The Fire Grant program principally benefits rural communi­ties and does nothing to build a national homeland security network. These funds could be employed much more effectively for other purposes.

In addition, rather than simply increasing fund­ing for preparedness and emergency response, Congress could better contribute to building a national preparedness system by reorganizing the DHS so that it can oversee the components that are developing the national preparedness system more efficiently. Congress should also consolidate DHS critical infrastructure protection, preparedness, and state/local/private coordination efforts under an Undersecretary for Protection and Preparedness. This would consolidate the following agencies, components, and authorities:

  1. The infrastructure protection component of the Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate;
  2. The Office of State and Local Government Coordination
    and Preparedness;
  3. The non-operational transportation infrastruc­ture protection mission of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA);
  4. The preparedness functions of the Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate;
  5. The private-sector preparedness mission of the Office of Private Sector Liaison; and
  6. DHS grantmaking authority.

Consolidating these disparate efforts would pro­vide the DHS Secretary with a stronger platform from which to lead national efforts to build a true national preparedness system.[21]

Principle #2: Prepare for Catastrophic Terrorism

The age when only great powers could bring great powers to their knees is past. Long before 9/11, national security experts argued that modern tech­nology and militant terrorist ideologies were creat­ing conditions that increased the potential for catastrophic attacks that could endanger tens of thousands of lives and cause hundreds of billions of dollars in damage. Catastrophic threats will over­whelm the response capacity of any state or local government.

Federal agencies must therefore be prepared to fund the lion's share of preparation for response to these threats. The priorities should be:

  • Detecting smuggled nuclear, radiological, chemical, and biological weapons;
  • Improving decontamination and medical responses to such dangers;
  • Ensuring the protection of critical infrastruc­ture, the destruction of which could result in catastrophic damage; and
  • Harnessing scientific knowledge and tools for counterterrorism efforts.

The Administration's budget reflects these prior­ities well. Proposed spending for responding to cat­astrophic threats is about $3.9 billion for FY 2006, an increase of about 13 percent over FY 2005-the second largest percentage increase in six critical homeland security mission areas.

As part of this effort, the budget calls for unifying all federal nuclear and radiological detection efforts under a new Domestic Nuclear Detection Office in the DHS. This office would be responsible for inter­agency coordination of all federal activities, orga­nizing them into a national detection architecture capable of detecting, identifying, and reporting the presence of illicit nuclear or radiological mate­rial.[22] Indeed, the creation of a government entity to coordinate all of the disparate federal activities seeking to deter or prevent the use of WMD is long overdue.

More than any other area of homeland security, preventing catastrophic terrorism requires improv­ing coordination of efforts across the DHS and among all the federal agencies. Congress can play an important in role improving the DHS's capacity to coordinate-but, again, the solution is not more spending.

The answer is to establish a capacity within the DHS to spend smarter. The DHS Secretary cur­rently lacks a policy apparatus to lead the develop­ment of proactive, strategic homeland security policy and programs and to facilitate effective inter­agency coordination. The DHS also currently lacks a high-level policy officer with the staff, authority, and gravitas to articulate and enforce policy guid­ance throughout the department and with other federal entities. The DHS needs a more substantial capability to guide and integrate current efforts, particularly in addressing the threat of catastrophic terrorism.

Congress should create a DHS Undersecretary for Policy. The undersecretary should oversee the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office since the office's primary responsibility of coordinating interagency policy on nuclear detection fits well within the undersecretary's larger responsibilities.

In addition, the undersecretary should oversee other activities that would facilitate developing effi­cient and effective programs to respond to cata­strophic threats. These activities would include:

  1. Conducting long-range policy planning. The undersecretary's staff would conduct long-range strategic planning, including "what if" scenario-based planning-a task that other DHS components invariably neglect, particu­larly with regard to catastrophic threats.
  2. Conducting program analysis. The undersec­retary would assist with DHS programming. In particular, the undersecretary's analysts would evaluate ongoing and proposed DHS pro­grams, as well as related programs in other departments.
  3. Preparing net assessments. The undersecre­tary's planners would conduct periodic net assessments and research specific issues regarding catastrophic threats as well as chal­lenges of interest to the secretary.[23]

Principle #3: Get the Biggest Bang for the Buck

The budget should fund programs that contrib­ute the most to the critical mission areas. Getting the "biggest bang for the buck" is a worthwhile cri­terion for guiding spending decisions.

The Administration and Congress still lack the knowledge and mechanisms to determine effective tradeoffs within each of the critical homeland secu­rity areas. However, the President's FY 2006 budget does show signs of significant progress in some areas, particularly in border and transportation security. Too often, the debate over where to invest in improving security has focused on spending on the border and ports of entry into the United States. The metric of success, however, is not how much money is spent on border and transportation secu­rity at points where people and goods enter the country, but how much is being done to limit the illegal entry into and unlawful presence in the United States.

Stopping the transit of bad people and things is a problem that has be considered from the origin of illicit activity to its final destination. Investments need to made on initiatives that best disrupt the travel of terrorists and other criminal activities. In this regard, investments with the highest payoff are not necessarily on the border or at ports of entry. For example, while the United States does need to strengthen border security, this should not be done at the expense of internal enforcement, which is perhaps more likely to significantly reduce illegal entry and unlawful presence than simply adding border guards. In that respect, the Administration was right to eschew the call from Congress in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 to hire thousands of additional border guards and to propose a more balanced investment in additional border security measures, increased capacity to detain and remove individuals unlaw­fully in the United States, and prosecution of immi­gration cases.[24] For instance, internal enforcement is needed to focus on the 85 percent of absconders who flee after receiving final removal orders.[25]

Likewise, on the border, the highest-payoff investments may not be at the points of entry. America's ports are a case in point. Estimates for enhancing security at America's ports run into the billions of dollars. The Administration proposed limiting port grants in FY 2005 to $50 million, but lobbyists pushed for dramatic increases-as much as $400 million per year. In the end, Congress tri­pled funding to $150 million.

Yet this was not a victory for enhancing border security. First, it is unclear that this funding is effec­tive. The DHS Inspector General recently ques­tioned the merits of "several hundred projects" related to port security.[26] Second, the best way to keep bad things from America's ports is to stop them before they arrive, not to try to turn every sea­port into a little "Maginot line."[27]

To this end, rather than significant additional funding for port security, the Administration has proposed $966 million (a substantial increase) for the Integrated Deepwater System, the program to recapitalize and modernize Coast Guard assets. Accelerating modernization of the Coast Guard is particularly prudent because its homeland security missions have vastly expanded since 9/11 and its equipment is wearing out faster than anticipated.

Undoubtedly, more needs to be done to address the flow of bad people and bad things across Amer­ica's borders, but before Congress puts more money into this area, the Administration needs a better blueprint on how to spend the money effectively. The DHS needs to conduct a national assessment of the resources required for effective border security, including all the layers of security that affect border security. This analysis should be used to help Con­gress and the Administration determine how to direct resources where they would contribute the most to the border security mission. This might be done as part of a quadrennial homeland security review of the department's strategies, force struc­ture, resources, and threat assessments.[28]

Meanwhile, Congress can insist on organiza­tional improvements within the DHS to enable the department to deliver more bang for the buck. This is particularly important in border and transporta­tion security, where the department is saddled with an inefficient organization that splits responsibili­ties for border security and internal enforcement between Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This split was done without a compelling reason- other than the vague descriptive notion that the CBP would handle "border enforcement" and the ICE would handle "interior enforcement." In fact, there is no sufficient justification for maintaining separate operational agencies.

Congress should rationalize border security and immigration enforcement by merging the CBP and ICE and eliminating the Directorate of Border and Transportation Security (BTS). The BTS has neither the staff nor the infrastructure to integrate CBP and ICE operations on a consistent basis outside the occasional task force, like the Arizona Border Con­trol Initiative. Merging the CBP and ICE would bring together under one roof all of the tools of effective border and immigration enforcement- inspectors, border patrol agents, special agents, detention and removal officers, and intelligence analysts-and realize the objective of creating a single border and immigration enforcement agency.[29]

Congressional Oversight

Implementing the strategic principles for home­land security spending will require more than just drafting a budget that reflects the right priorities. Smart spending will also require effective congres­sional oversight. With the creation of permanent homeland security committees, Congress has an opportunity to provide leadership beyond simply writing checks.

In particular, the House and Senate homeland security committees should craft authorization bills to match appropriations legislation. A well-crafted authorization bill could serve as an effective over­sight tool. The nation needs a Department of Homeland Security that is structured to produce effective policies and programs for the long term. Thus, the authorization bill should focus on over­sight of personnel issues, critical mission areas, research and development programs, and informa­tion technology investments that will serve as the foundation for the department's success.[30]

What Congress Should Do

America faces a protracted war against global ter­rorism and requires a homeland security system that is equal to the task. Overall, the Administra­tion has proposed a responsible budget for enhanc­ing homeland security that funds priorities in line with the national homeland security strategy. Con­gress can best support the President's budget by:

  • Supporting the President's homeland security budget priorities,
  • Refraining from inserting earmarks,
  • Eliminating separate Fire Grants,
  • Setting standards and priorities for funding grants that support Homeland Security Presi­dential Directive 8, and
  • Requiring an authorization bill.

Rather than looking to throw more money at homeland security, Congress should turn its atten­tion over the next year to the critical organizational and management issues that keep the DHS from spending the greatest share of homeland security funds efficiently and effectively. In particular, Con­gress should:

  • Create an Undersecretary for Policy,
  • Replace the Undersecretary for Preparedness and Response with an Undersecretary for Pro­tection and Preparedness, and
  • Abolish the Undersecretary for Border and Transportation Security and merge ICE and CBP.


There is much that Congress can do to make the nation safer, but merely throwing more money at the problem is not enough. Congress should use the proposed FY 2006 budget and the first session of the 109th Congress to pass a responsible budget and to address the organizational and management issues to ensure that homeland security money is spent more effectively and efficiently.

James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow for National Security and Homeland Security in the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation. Alane Kochems assisted in the preparation of this paper.


[1]The Administration defines homeland security as "a concerted national effort to prevent terrorist attacks within the United States, reduce America's vulnerability to terrorism, and minimize the damage and recover from attacks that do occur." Office of Homeland Security, National Strategy for Homeland Security, July 2002, p. 2, at nat_strat_hls.pdf (March 14, 2005).


[2]The FY 2005 budget was about $46 billion. Discretionary funding for FY 2005 ($39.6 billion) and FY 2006 ($41.5 billion) shows a real increase of about 4 percent. Office of Management and Budget, Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2006 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2005), p. 347, Table S-5, at (March 14, 2005). Calculations for discretionary spending are based on excluding mandatory spending, discretionary fee-funded activities, and funding for Project BioShield ($2.5 billion), authorized in a multi-year appropriation in FY 2004 to develop biodefense medicines. For further discussion of BioShield funding, see Office of Man­agement and Budget, Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2006: Analytical Perspectives (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2005),p. 216, at (March 14, 2005).


[3]James Jay Carafano and Steven M. Kosiak, "Homeland Security: Administration's Plan Appears to Project Little Growth in Funding," Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments Backgrounder, March 12, 2003, p. 2, at U.20030312.Homeland_Security_.pdf (March 14, 2005).


[4]Richard A. Falkenrath, "The Problems of Preparedness: Challenges Facing the U.S. Domestic Preparedness Program," executive session on domestic preparedness discussion paper, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, 2000, p. 1.


[5]For example, meeting all of the nation's needs to conduct effective emergency response could total over $98.4 billion. How­ever, the report may have underestimated costs since the task force was unable to obtain reliable data on the additional require­ments of state and local law enforcement agencies. Council on Foreign Relations, Independent Task Force, Emergency Responders: Drastically Underfunded, Dangerously Unprepared, 2003, p. 2, at (March 14, 2005).


[6]Office of Management and Budget, Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2005 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Govern­ment Printing Office, 2005), p. 370, Table S-6, at (March 14, 2005).


[7]Carafano and Kosiak, "Homeland Security," p. 1.


[8]In inflation-adjusted dollars, total spending decreased by 4 percent. Net non-defense discretionary homeland security spending (including annual and supplemental appropriations) declined from $29.5 billion to $27.9 billion. Office of Man­agement and Budget, Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2005, p. 370, Table S-6.


[9]Office of Homeland Security, National Strategy for Homeland Security, pp. 15-46.


[10]Office of Management and Budget, Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2006, p. 347, Table S-5.


[11]A breakdown of homeland security funding by agency and by the critical mission areas outlined in the national homeland security strategy is provided in Office of Management and Budget, "Appendix: Homeland Security Mission Funding by Agency and Budget Account," Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2006: Analytical Perspectives, CD-ROM ed. (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2005).


[12]Matthew Schmit, "Federal Funding for Homeland Security," Congressional Budget Office Economic and Budget Issue Brief, April 30, 2004, p. 3, at (March 14, 2005).


[13]See James Jay Carafano, "An Appropriator's Guide to Homeland Security," Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 1767, June 7, 2004, at


[14]Mission areas primarily concerned with preventing or disrupting terrorist attacks are intelligence and early warning, bor­der and transportation security, domestic counterterrorism, and defending against catastrophic terrorism. These activities are described in Office of Management and Budget, Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2006: Analytical Per­spectives, pp. 39-48.


[15] Council on Foreign Relations, Emergency Responders, p. 13.


[16]Veronique de Rugy, "What Does Homeland Security Spending Buy?" American Enterprise Institute Working Paper No. 107, October 27, 2004, pp. 17-18, at (March 14, 2005).


[17]Shawn Reese, "FY2006 Appropriations for State and Local Homeland Security," Congressional Research Service, RS22050, February 14, 2005, p. 1, at (March 14, 2005).


[18]This is a reduction of $138 million from FY 2005. The Administration has proposed reducing funding for bioterrorism hospital preparedness through the Health Resources and Services Administration by $8 million to $483 million and fund­ing for bioterrorism state and local capacity through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by $130 million to $797 million. Department of Health and Human Services, Budget in Brief: Fiscal Year 2006, February 2005, pp. 16 and 28.


[19]Reese, "FY2006 Appropriations for State and Local Homeland Security," pp. 2-3.


Jim Carafano
James Carafano

Vice President, Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute