- The Washington Times - Monday, December 2, 2002

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee says the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) needs to do a better job of providing Congress with information supporting federal spending increases in the war on terrorism.
Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican, expressed "concern" in a letter to OMB Director Mitchell E. Daniels Jr. that the agency was "resisting" giving Congress information it had collected for its own use that would provide "insight into whether programs are actually operating according to the plans and budget justifications submitted."
His comments were in response to a General Accounting Office report released last week saying the OMB needed to make "significant improvements" in reporting to Congress on money appropriated to combat terrorism.
"GAO's report clearly points out the deficiencies in OMB's current approach to reporting information about how money is actually spent for this vital activity," Mr. Sensenbrenner said. "Congress has increased spending to combat terrorism from $20 billion in 2001 to $37 billion in 2002, and $45 billion for combating terrorism is contained in the 2003 budget request.
"We need to see clearly how this money is being allocated so the billions of new dollars are spent wisely in protecting the American people," he said.
Mr. Sensenbrenner, whose committee oversees the Justice Department's anti-terrorism effort, said he was "particularly concerned" that in five annual reports to Congress on combating terrorism, the OMB had not identified duplication of efforts as required.
"We know that federal agencies have a tendency to run programs that overlap with each other; this GAO study shows that OMB can do more to help Congress avoid wasteful spending," he said.
Congress has required OMB since 1997 to report annually on funding to combat terrorism and Mr. Sensenbrenner asked the GAO earlier this year to "look closely" at funding for fiscal 1998 through 2003. He said he was concerned about whether the funds were being used well and whether federal money was being wasted by agencies' creating duplicate programs.
The GAO report said funding data reported to Congress did not adequately support congressional oversight, and there was a lack of a common structure to categorize combating terrorism activities among key governmentwide reports.
The report said categories could not be linked to appropriations accounts and that there was "no transparency for making policy choices and tradeoffs between combating terrorism and other activities."
The report also noted that the OMB required federal agencies to provide budget request information on combating terrorism, including homeland security, so that funding was identified by account. But, the GAO said, it found that the OMB had not required agencies to identify separately obligations for the specific programs and activities.
As a result, the report said, the OMB cannot determine how much funding from prior years was still available to potentially offset new requests, whether the rate of spending for a program was slower than anticipated, or what the level of effort was for a particular year as for a program over time.
The GAO, according to the report, said there was a 276 percent increase in funds designated to combat terrorism during fiscal 2001 and 2002. The agency said the numbers included a 106 percent increase from the post-September 11 redefinition of combating terrorism to include homeland security activities such as aviation and transportation security, and a 170 percent increase because of funding increases.

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