The fiscal year (FY) 2012 homeland security appropriations bill is on the floor today. One would assume that this would be an opportunity for House members to get rid of wasteful programs while maintaining funding for the ones that make us safer.
Instead, they are avoiding the hard choices that come with reallocating resources in a smart way, instead offering a simple amendment that would cut appropriations to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) by 10 percent (except border security funding).
This is a mistake for a number of reasons. First, there are legitimate programs and offices, such as the DHS Office of Policy, that are doing good work and actually need funding. Cutting them further would jeopardize their ability to perform their vital functions.
Second, despite the amendment to cut funding across the board, the House approved an amendment last night that would double the amount for fire assistance grants. My colleague Dave Muhlhausen has examined these fire grants extensively and found that they aren’t effective at keeping firefighters safer. But Congress doesn’t seem to care and is more intent on preserving pet projects than on exercising fiscal responsibility—attempting to look good on spending while really just playing the same old money games.
Congress can do this the right way. They did it, for instance, in the FY 2011 appropriations process, when Congress maintained key funding in a number of areas while cutting funding for the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI). This caused DHS to reassess the funding allocations for UASI, ensuring that only the highest-risk cities received precious resources.
These spending shenanigans simply shouldn’t pass muster ever—but certainly not in this era of limited resources. Putting pork first isn’t a new problem for Congress. But it needs to stop now.