- The Washington Times - Friday, March 21, 2003

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge yesterday presented his 2004 funding request to Congress and was warned by both sides of the aisle that spending and the new department's progress will be closely scrutinized.
Mr. Ridge asked for $36.2 billion and was told by the chairman of the new House subcommittee with jurisdiction to set specific goals and outcomes so the new department's performance can be judged by Congress.
"We can't afford to waste time waffling in bureaucratic inertia," said Rep. Harold Rogers, Kentucky Republican and chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security.
Minnesota Rep. Martin Olav Sabo, ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, said the budget contained "many deficiencies" to fund first responders and that the Bush administration's continued support for tax cuts while the country is at war "flies in the face of reality."
The overall budget request is nearly 8 percent higher than the current year and sets aside $3.5 billion for first responders at the local and state level.
When Mr. Ridge spoke with the nation's governors Monday night before raising the national threat level from elevated (Yellow) to high (Orange), no one asked for funding, he said.
"I understand that they've got some tough fiscal situations in their respective states, but not a governor said, 'What about the money?' Every governor and every homeland security adviser said, 'We'll get it done,'" Mr. Ridge said.
There is a clear role for the federal government to help fund local responders in light of the September 11 terrorist attacks, and additional funding will be requested in a supplemental spending bill. However, Mr. Ridge said that fire and police are not nationalized and responsibility must be shared by cities and states.
Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican, criticized the current funding structure, which he says borrows from other grant programs like the COPS program to pay for homeland security protections.
"We simply have to come clean about how much of this is new money and make certain that we are not taking away with one hand what we are giving with another," Mr. Wolf said.
"If you had asked [cities and states] do they want to lose the grants for additional law enforcement and policemen, they would say no," Mr. Wolf said. "They actually wanted both."
The president's budget also contains $18.1 billion for border and transportation security, $829 million for information analysis and infrastructure protection, $809 million for science and technology, $6.8 billion for the Coast Guard, $1.3 billion for the Secret Service, and $1.8 billion for the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Rep. Jose E. Serrano of New York, an outspoken Democrat on the issues of civil liberties and civil rights, questioned Mr. Ridge on profiling, detention practices, and the use of enormous databases to gather information on U.S. citizens.
"History is full of examples of well-intentioned efforts to ensure our safety leading to serious and significant violations of the rights and privileges provided under our laws. My fear is that we may be adding another troubling chapter to this history," Mr. Serrano said.
"In the process of getting the bad guys, let's make sure we don't throw away our Constitution and trample on the rights of the good guys," Mr. Serrano said.
Mr. Ridge said privacy, civil rights, and civil-liberties officers within the department "will afford the kind of protections that you and your colleagues all desire."
Mr. Rogers did offer help to Mr. Ridge if he encounters turf battles from within his department that Congress could resolve.
"Each group comes to the table with a growth of knowledge, but they will also bring parochial interests and cultures that may not readily lend themselves to the openness required to be successful," Mr. Ridge said.
"We will give you a good deal of leeway as you begin to organize this department, but I want you to make no mistake Mr. Secretary, we will carefully monitor your progress," Mr. Rogers said. "That's the way we operate."

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