Murray Tells Mineta that Bush's Cut Will Weaken Transportation Security

Aug 14 2002

In Letter to Transportation Secretary, Murray Decries Impact of Bush's $5.1 billion Cut on Transportation Security Efforts

(Washington, D.C.) - Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) wrote to U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta to express her "extreme disappointment" with the President's proposed $5.1 billion cut to the Supplemental Appropriations Bill.

As the Chairman of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, Murray has worked to appropriate funding for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the Coast Guard and other entities responsible for Homeland Security.

Yesterday, President Bush announced that he would not approve $5.1 billion of the Supplemental Appropriations bill approved by Congress. In her letter to Mineta today, Murray explained the cut's impact on the Coast Guard, port security, and the TSA, which is struggling to meet security deadlines.

In recent months, funding for Homeland Security has been undermined several times by the Administration. In May, Secretary Mineta told Chairman Murray that the TSA would need $4.4 billion. In July, OMB Director Mitch Daniels successfully advocated to the conferees on the Supplemental Appropriations bill that the House-passed level of $3.85 billion was sufficient. Yesterday, President Bush cut the TSA's budget by an additional $480.2 million. Between Director Daniels and the President's actions, TSA's funding will be almost 25 percent below the amount Mineta said was needed back in May.

Senator Murray's letter to Secretary Mineta follows:

August 14, 2002

The Honorable Norman Mineta
U.S. Department of Transportation
Washington, D.C. 20590

Dear Mr. Secretary:

I write to express my extreme disappointment with the President's decision to do away with more than $5 billion in appropriated funding for critical homeland defense activities. I am astonished that, at a time when the entire federal government and your agency in particular are wrestling with the immediate challenge of enhancing the security of our country, the President has decided that billions of dollars in additional security funding are simply not needed.

On July 26, I wrote to you regarding my dismay over OMB Director Daniels' successful effort in undermining funding for the Transportation Security Administration by telling the conferees on the Supplemental Appropriations bill that the House-passed level of $3.85 billion was adequate to meet the agency's needs. With the President's announcement yesterday, that funding level has now been reduced by more than $480 million - all at a time when the TSA is struggling to meet critical statutory deadlines for the screening of passengers and baggage by this November and December. Between Director Daniels and the President's actions, funding for the TSA will now be almost 25 percent below the $4.4 billion you identified as necessary back in May. Mr. Secretary, in your efforts to improve transportation security, you need and deserve better allies within your Administration.

These cuts to the TSA budget come on top of the President's action eliminating $150 million that was provided in the Supplemental to assist the nation's airports in complying with your new security directives - all at a time when an increasing number of airports are publicly insisting that there is no way that you will comply with the aforementioned screening deadlines. I fear that the President's action in denying the nation's airports critically needed security funds will only undermine your ability to ensure the security of the traveling public.

Separate from the impact on aviation security, the President's action eliminated $11 million for enhanced Coast Guard operations, $262 million in critical Coast Guard procurements including funding for the purchase of new Patrol Boats for homeland security. Also eliminated was funding to enable your Department to improve the permitting of trucking firms carrying the most dangerous of hazardous cargos - this at a time when we know that terrorists have sought access to commercial drivers' licenses. The President eliminated $98 million in funding to reimburse States for highway repairs caused by natural disasters, including $14 million to reimburse my State for costs associated with the Nisqually earthquake and $12 million to reimburse Oklahoma for the recently destroyed I-40 bridge.

The President's action also puts at risk $125 million in grants to our seaports to improve security and $30 million to specifically enhance the security of container shipping notwithstanding the observations of your Administration and others that our nation's seaports represent one of our greatest security vulnerabilities. Prior to the final enactment of the Supplemental Appropriations Bill, you wrote to the Appropriations Committee twice to emphasize the importance of providing supplemental security funds to the FAA so as to avoid a furlough of air traffic controllers this Fall. The President's action eliminates a majority of these supplemental FAA funds.

Taken together, I have to conclude that the President in a most irresponsible manner has done real and unnecessary damage to your ability to protect the American public. As we continue to work together on your Department's budget for Fiscal Year 2003, I hope that the Administration will finally begin to speak with one voice regarding the security needs of the nation's transportation system.


Patty Murray
Chairman Subcommittee on Transportation and Related Agencies