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Build Long-Term Homeland Security Capacity

Across critical areas of homeland security, there is a gap between actions required and available resources. Where possible, homeland security should be self-sustaining and less dependent on the political vagaries of the annual budgeting process.

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Across critical areas of homeland security, there is a gap between actions required and available resources. Where possible, homeland security should be self-sustaining and less dependent on the political vagaries of the annual budgeting process. This is not to take away Congress’ power of the purse. Congress must exercise vigorous oversight of homeland security priorities and how they match up with resource allocation.

A mix of security fees (such as the aviation passenger security fee), federal grants, dedicated trust funds—the highway trust fund, sustained through gasoline taxes, is a good example—and private sector incentives, including tax credits and liability protection in return for stronger performance than markets may require, are needed. Given the growing security role played by such agencies as Citizenship and Immigration Services and the State Department Passport Services Office, organizational funding based primarily on fees is a questionable business model for an area of growing importance.

Security efforts will be more sustainable if they are “dual use” and offer broader societal benefits beyond just security. The homeland security grant program must be reformed and the amount of federal investment increased. The overall grant program should be all-hazard, but specific programs should be targeted at prevention or preparedness, both vital missions.

Total state and local grant funding for FY2008, just over $3 billion, is simply not enough to make a difference. It takes too long to dispense assistance from the federal government through states and down to the local level. Military commanders have been given millions in contingency funds that they can deploy quickly to solve unexpected problems or exploit promising opportunities. Subject to significant oversight, the Department of Homeland Security should have some available funding that can be dispensed rapidly and targeted against changing requirements.

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