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Obama's proposed Homeland Security budget sees slight increase

By Mike M. Ahlers, CNN
Obama's proposed budget increases Homeland Security's discretionary spending.
Obama's proposed budget increases Homeland Security's discretionary spending.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Agency would get $309 million more in discretionary funds
  • Airports would get 275 more full-body scanners
  • All-time high number of Border Patrol, Customs officers would be funded
  • Coast Guard fleet would be modernized
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Washington (CNN) -- President Barack Obama's budget cutters left the Department of Homeland Security relatively unscathed Monday, less than a week after the department chief said the country's terror threat is at its "most heightened state" since the September 11 attacks.

The proposed budget provides $43.2 billion in discretionary spending for the department, an increase of $309 million, or 0.7%, above the 2010 level. The total 2012 budget request for the agency is $57 billion.

Homeland Security officials called the changes modest Monday, saying that most increases were "follow-ups" to more ambitious initiatives announced last year.

The changes will allow the U.S. Coast Guard to continue upgrading its aging fleet, allow the Transportation Security Administration to put more high-tech screening machines in airports and keep the record number of Border Patrol officers along the southwest border. The plan also allots money to build up the nation's cyberdefenses.

On the cutting side, the budget trims administration costs throughout the department, kills a few modest grant programs for local governments and delays construction of a new headquarters for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Last week, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told a House committee the terrorist threat facing the U.S. "continues to evolve, so that, in some ways, the threat facing us is at its most heightened state since" September 11.

A top Homeland Security official said Monday that the president's budget proposal for the agency "allows us to continue to meet these evolving threats by prioritizing our essential operation requirements."

Among the highlights:

Budget plan dubbed 'debt on arrival'

• The budget proposes $1.4 billion to modernize the Coast Guard's fleet: enough to fully fund the nation's fifth National Security Cutter, six fast-response boats, 40 response boats and improvements for some shore facilities. It also includes money to complete a new Coast Guard headquarters at the Saint Elizabeth's site. The site, in southeast Washington eventually will house most of the Department of Homeland Security's agencies.

• The Transportation Security Administration budget includes $236.9 million to fund 3,336 behavior detection officers, which includes 350 new positions. It also includes $125.7 million to sustain 900 canine teams and $105.2 million to buy and operate 275 full-body scanners at airport checkpoints, bringing the total to 1,275 machines.

• The TSA budget also has $109 million for 12 new VIPR teams, which are intended to provide a visible deterrent to terrorists on subways and other modes of transportation. Some 25 teams are already deployed. It also includes $12.4 million to vet air travelers against watch lists and $14.1 million for enhancing screening of international travelers before they board U.S.-bound flights. Finally, the government is increasing money for federal air marshals for domestic flights to replace those diverted to international flights following international plots uncovered in recent years.

• For border security, the budget includes funding for 21,370 Border Patrol agents and 21,185 Customs and Border Protection officers. Both are all-time highs, the administration said. It also includes $242 million for surveillance technology along the southwest border and $55 million for northern border technology.

• To combat illegal immigrant offenders, the budget includes $157.7 million to pay for 33,400 detention beds and to remove more than 200,000 criminal illegal immigrants during the fiscal year. Another $184 million is for the Secure Communities program, which helps local and state detention centers identify illegal immigrants for removal and prosecution of egregious employers.

• To thwart hackers from infiltrating government computers, the budget proposes $233.6 million to expedite the deployment of the government's Einstein 3 system.

• The budget includes $3.8 billion in grants for state and local governments, including $420 million to rehire an estimated 2,300 laid-off firefighters. The administration says it is streamlining the grant programs, consolidating six grant programs and eliminating a couple of small programs.

 
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