| President seeks reduced funding for transit, ports, and school programs |
President Obama's budget proposal includes ill-advised and disappointing reductions in funding for crucial physical security programs, Security Industry Association (SIA) officials said on Monday.
Obama's fiscal year 2010 budget would cut hundreds of millions of dollars from transit, port and school security programs and provide them with much less money than the amount authorised by Congress or recommended in recent legislation. Obama seeks to reduce funding for both the Transit Security Grant Program and the Port Security Grant Program from the current $388.6 million each to $250 million each for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. Congress authorised $900 million for the transit program and $400 million for the port program for fiscal 2010.
Obama would keep funding for the Secure Our Schools program at the current level of $16 million, but this is well below the $50 million authorisation level recommended in the School Safety Enhancements Act that was unanimously passed in September by the House of Representatives.
"President Obama is looking for cuts in all the wrong places," SIA Director of Government Relations Don Erickson said. "We understand and support efforts to be fiscally responsible, but taking money away from programs that protect children in the classroom and the millions of Americans travelling on our mass transit systems or conducting business at our nations' ports is not in any way responsible. It is a misguided step in the wrong direction."
The Transit Security Grant Program provides federal money to regional transit systems to help them protect critical infrastructure from terrorism. The Port Security Grant Program provides financial assistance to port areas for the same purpose. The Secure Our Schools program funds the development of school safety resources and security improvements at schools.
SIA will work to secure full funding for all three programs, Erickson said.
"Funding these programs at their authorised levels would total just over $1.3 billion," he noted. "For transit systems, ports and schools, that is a significant amount of money that can go a long way toward stopping people who wish to do us harm. For the federal government, though, it represents less than one-half of one-tenth of one percent of the annual budget. These cuts are supposed to represent fiscal restraint, but they will lessen national security much more than they reduce federal spending."