It is odd to be discussing the proposed Federal FY 2012 budget while the FY 2011 budget remains in limbo or what we in Washington call a CR (continuing resolution). Despite no FY 2011 budget, on Monday, the Obama Administration released its proposed FY 2012 budget of which roughly $3.8 billion is slated for state and local homeland security grants and programs.
For 2012, the Obama Administration proposes cutting approximately $300 million from the FY 2010 grant budget (the last Congressionally enacted appropriation for DHS). While the cuts to the grants are real, the FY 2012 grant budget is a very reasonable proposal given the current state of the national debt and annual deficits. Some programs actually see an increase while others are slated for termination. The following is a summary of the key elements of the President’s FY 2012 proposed budget and what it means.
The Homeland Security Grant Program
The Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP) is the largest of the grants and consists of four independent grant programs: Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI), State Homeland Security Program (SHSP), Metropolitan Medical Response System (MMRS), and Citizen Corps Program (CCP). While UASI at $920 million, SHSP at $1 billion and CCP at $13 million are each slated for an increase in funding over FY 2010 actual appropriations, MMRS is put on the chopping block for termination with its program elements rolled into SHSP. The effects of zeroing out MMRS are several.
First, by zeroing out MMRS and rolling it into SHSP, the Administration could actually reduce the net increase of its proposed SHSP funding by $39 million, which has been the annual appropriation for MMRS for several years. That assumes that the States would actually spend $39 million on MMRS activities, which is something the States may or may not do under the President’s budget.
Second, in the past, MMRS has been a targeted grant insofar as the cities or MMRS jurisdictions were predetermined for funding and have developed MMRS committees and other infrastructure to manage the program. Whether these committees would stay in existence is impossible to know for sure, but most likely several would not as the funds would be managed by the States with no statutory requirement to fund the MMRS jurisdictions (DHS may have the authority to carve out funding administratively).
Third, the Obama Administration is not the first to try and zero out MMRS. For several years the Bush Administration tried to do the same thing only to have Congress reject the proposal and fund MMRS as a stand alone program. My money is on Congress stepping in and doing the same this year although it may be a closer call than in years past given the budget crisis.
While the Administration has proposed once again to end MMRS as a stand alone program, it has reversed itself on doing the same to the CCP. In the President’s proposed FY 2011 budget, CCP was slated for termination along with MMRS and several other programs. Not so in FY 2012 where CCP is set for a small increase. One suspects this is based on the priority FEMA and the Administration have now given to community preparedness and resiliency, which likely spared CCP from the guillotine during the Administration’s internal budget deliberations.
Infrastructure Protection Grants
Along with UASI and SHSP, the infrastructure protection grants – Transit Security Grant Program (TSGP), the Port Security Grant Program (PSGP) and the Buffer Zone Protection Program (BZPP) are the other big winners under the President’s proposed budget. For 2012, both TSGP and PSGP are funded at $300 million each (a $16 million increase for each program) with BZPP coming in at $50 million, a $2 million increase over prior years.
Border Security Grants
Operation Stonegarden, the program designed to fund state and local border security operations in coordination with the U.S. Border Patrol, is funded at $50 million, a $10 million cut from the FY 2010 actual appropriation.
At $670 million, the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program takes a $106 million haircut compared to what it received in FY 2010. However, the $670 million request for FY 2012 is a $60 million increase beyond what the Administration asked for in FY 2011 ($610 million) for the AFG program. The AFG is the third largest grant program among all the grants now managed by DHS.
Emergency Management Grants
The Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG) does well under the President’s proposal at $350 million, which is a $12 million increase over the FY 2010 actual appropriation. Given that EMPG itself was once on the chopping block several years ago it has come a long way and is now among the largest grants managed by DHS.
The Grant Graveyard
In addition to MMRS, the Administration is proposing to send several grants the way of the dodo bird. They are: the Interoperable Emergency Communications Grant Program (IECGP), the Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Grant Program (RCPGP), Driver’s License Security or Real ID grants, Emergency Operations Center (EOC) grants, and a hand full of other smaller programs. All of these grants, except for the RCPGP, were also pegged for termination in the Administration’s FY 2011 proposed budget. As then, the Administration seeks to roll up the activities funded by these grants under the SHSP, which is set to receive an increase in funding. However, by rolling these programs into the SHSP, the Administration’s “increase” in funding for SHSP begins to drop in real terms as activities once funded under separate grants are now set to eat into the funding pie under SHSP on top of the previously funded SHSP activities. Assuming the President’s proposal comes to fruition, roughly $238 million in activities previously funded under the terminated grants will now fall under SHSP if those activities are to be funded at all.
While I agree with the Administration’s proposal to eliminate the EOC, Driver’s License/Real ID, IECGP and the other smaller programs, I have concerns with the decision to eliminate RCPGP and MMRS. Both RCPGP and MMRS require integrated planning and other activities that foster regional collaboration and capabilities that may otherwise not exist. In other words, it’s not simply a matter of rolling the activities allowable under each grant into SHSP, but rather, ensuring the funding and infrastructure created to manage the programs is sustained as well.
While sustainment of that infrastructure is possible by rolling the MMRS and RCPGP into SHSP, it is not clear from the Administration’s proposal that it will happen. As for the cost of keeping MMRS and RCPGP - $39 million for MMRS and $34 million for RCPGP – Congress could offset the costs by spreading a $73 million cut across EMPG, AFG, TSGP and PSGP, which would have little negative impact on any of those programs. That $73 million could be used to fund MMRS and RCPGP as stand alone grants or as carve outs in SHSP with clear direction in SHSP grant guidance to maintain the projects and infrastructure currently in place.
While cutting nearly $300 million from FY 2010 actual spending, the FY 2012 proposed homeland security grant budget is reasonable and could have been a lot worse for States and localities. However, deeper cuts could be enacted, as the President’s numbers are simply the opening salvo in a long and twisted dance between the Executive and Legislative branches of government. A dance so twisted it’s still ongoing concerning the FY 2011 budget. The FY 2012 budget won’t be passed before October 1, 2011 (if it’s passed at all) and a lot can change between now and then as we gear up for the 2012 presidential election.
Finally, the following is a link to the Administration’s FY 2012 DHS proposed budget released on Monday. The grants are listed on page 537.