As Republicans and Democrats continue the heated debate on Capitol Hill over the Obama administration’s budget request, Republicans have plans of their own — including deep cuts in homeland security funds. Democrats argue that cuts to homeland security programs compromise the nation’s security.
The DHS FY2012 budget includes $125.7 million for Canine Teams, a program that must not be compromised.
The success of cannine units in the U.S. war on terror has been impressive, a expression not often used to described U.S. Homeland Security.
Several breeds of dogs trained to detect chemicals, explosives, huge stashes of currency, agriculture products, narcotics and even concealed humans at the borders have proved highly successful. Success coupled with demand for K-9 units has resulted in a boom of private security agencies offering trained canines as part of their standard services.
On Feb. 9, the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano testified before the new Congress on the overhaul of homeland security measures to adapt to evolving terrorism threats.
Secretary Napolitano described the current terrorist threat level as the highest since 9/11, reemphasizing the growing homegrown terrorist threats.
The threat continues to esculate as terrorist groups in the Middle East use internet sites such as Facebook and YouTube as a highly effective tool for recruiting and inspiring the younger populations in Europe and the United States.
On Feb. 17, 2011 Napolitano testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs regarding the “DHS Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Request.”
The Obama administration’s 2012 Budget Request includes a 0.7 percent increase in homeland security funding, however, the Republicans’ budget calls for serious cuts in funding for security including less airport security peronnel.
In Thursday’s testimony regarding the Obama administration’s DHS FY2012 Napolitano said the budget request:
allows the department to meet security threats “while reflecting an unprecedented commitment to fiscal discipline that maximizes the effectiveness of every security dollar we receive.”
The budget request for DHS FY2012 is $57.0 billion in total funding, $47.4 billion in gross discretionary funding, and $43.2 billion in net discretionary funding.
A key component critical to the success of four out of six ‘Missions’ outlined in DHS FY2012 budget is the request for $125.7 million for canine teams.
For explosive-type detection, “canines are the absolute best,” said Mark Miller, president of Executive Protection Systems, who spent 20 years in the U.S. Army chemical corps and has worked with the White House, Capitol and Supreme Court on disaster and terrorism preparedness and security.
The requested funds allow TSA to sustain the deployment of 900 canine teams, an essential security measure at passenger screening checkpoints at airports, cargo screening and mass transit security.
Several studies and reports are available that reveal the success of canine units at airports, boarders and seaports.
On the other hand, the FY 2012 Budget Request of $236.9 million funds to sustain the Behavior Detection Officers program SPOT currently employs 3,336 BDOs, and plans to add 350 positions.
Behavior Detection Officers, according to DHS and TSA serve as an additional layer of security in airports by providing a non-intrusive means of identifying individuals who may pose a risk of terrorism or criminal activity.
However, the BDO program has been widely criticized by leading security experts and a recent reports.
The qualifications for BDO are the same as a TSO and an additional five hours of training. Behavior detection is a science hard to master even by those with degrees. No degree or experience in behavior detection is required for the TSA program.
A GAO report released in May 2010 revealed that TSA deployed SPOT before first determining whether there was a scientifically valid basis for using behavior and appearance indicators as a means for reliably identifying passengers as potential threats in airports.
The consensus of the programs by many critics and recent studies is that the half a billion dollars spent on training BDOs and the SPOT program has been a waste.
On Feb. 7, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection K-9 named Allen seized over eight pounds of opium hidden in wicker baskets at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport Foreign Mail Facility. While screening arriving international mail, K-9 Allen alerted to two parcels coming from Laos and after examination, opium was discovered woven between the layers of wicker.
If the budget cuts comes down to reduced funding for the SPOT program or canine patrols, the choice should be obvious.
To see a list of the six missions Napolitano testifimony included, click here.