President Bush's proposed $35 billion budget for the Department of Homeland Security next year is "simply inadequate," a top House Democrat told Secretary Michael Chertoff today, even though he acknowledged that solving the agency's many problems wasn't just about throwing more money at it.
Chertoff, in his first appearance before the Democratic-controlled Congress, responded that the administration's proposed Homeland Security budget for 2008 is "sound, sensible and ample" and reflects the president's "strong commitment" to protecting the United States.
Rep. David Price (D-N.C.), chairman of the House homeland security appropriations subcommittee , began his comments by reciting a laundry list of what was wrong with the department, including what he said were some of the most demoralized employees in the federal government and "devastation that still looks fresh" in areas ravaged by Hurricane Katrina a year and a half ago.
"I'm not saying the department's troubles can be solved simply by throwing more money at them," Price said, but he added that "some areas of your proposed budget are simply inadequate."
Price said that the additional $447 million asked for next year represented an increase of only one percent over this year.
Chertoff responded that the budget represented an eight percent increase over this year and that this was a time for "prudence from a fiscal standpoint."
In his opening statement to the committee, Chertoff defended the recently-created department, saying the Department of Defense took 40 years to "get configured properly and the first secretary of defense committed suicide."
Answering questions about whether federal aid for the department should be spread evenly throughout the country, Chertoff responded that the department should be "risk-based in funding."
Democratic and Republican congressmen pointed out to Chertoff that in recent days their committee had heard "troublesome" testimony from the Government Accountability Office and the Homeland Security department's own inspector general criticizing the department's responsiveness and openness.
Chertoff responded that committee members could count on him to communicate their expectations to his senior managers.