- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 5, 2005

Lawmakers angry with the Department of Homeland Security said yesterday they would withhold or delay nearly $800 million because officials have not told them enough about how it is being spent.

“It is a simple equation,” said Rep. Harold Rogers, Kentucky Republican and chairman of the House Appropriations homeland security subcommittee. “No information equals no money.”

Mr. Rogers called the department “a reluctant partner” and said it had “ignored requests for information and direction to move expeditiously in the implementation of important national policies and goals.”

“The department will find that the lack of information has cost them,” Mr. Rogers said at a meeting of his subcommittee to consider the department’s 2006 budget request.

The subcommittee agreed by voice vote to approve a spending bill for the department that cuts $485 million and delays another $310 million in funding until various reports and other information requested by Congress or required by law have been provided.

The bill now goes to the full Appropriations committee, before being voted on the House floor. An equivalent bill is working its way through the Senate.

Noting that many opportunities remain to amend the bill before it becomes law, some congressional staffers suggested that the cuts were a warning to the department, and they might be restored if the department improved its cooperation.

Homeland Security spokeswoman Valerie Smith said officials hope the funding would be restored and would “continue to work closely with Congress to ensure that the nation’s security is properly funded.”

She added that the demands for information had been too extensive to respond to all at once and said that “the secretary has asked Congress for help in prioritizing these many reports.”

Most dramatically, the bill almost halves the budget for the Coast Guard’s huge Deepwater modernization and recapitalization project, from $966 million to $500 million.

Mr. Rogers said the department had repeatedly failed to provide information about how the 20-year project would meet the new demands the war on terror puts on the Coast Guard.

“Absent a revised baseline that reflects post-September 11 mission requirements,” Mr. Rogers said, “Deepwater is funded at pre-September 11 levels.”

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