|Issue of the Day Posts Tagged ‘Federal Budget’|
White House Proposes Increase Spending for Cyber Security
Published Tuesday, August 18th, 2009 by Lacey Loftin
It has been known for a while now that the future of war or conflict will involve information or cyber warfare. A non-profit US Cyber Consequences Unit studied the cyber tactics used against the country of Georgia during its military conflict with Russia last year. Cyber attacks in August 2008 shut down the web sites of critical Georgian government agencies, the media and banks. The US-CCU expects this model to be used again in future conflicts. The report suggests that an international organization be created to provide risk advisories and international cyber-response forces to assistance member states in the form of advice and setting up permanent operations, plus cyber-response exercises to thwart future attacks.
Overall, spending for Defense as a percentage of the federal budget has trended upwards since 2002 at a rate of 0.7 percentage points a year to 21.7%. For cyber security, President Obama called for $355 million in spending for the DHS intelligence and warning mission area, up from the $294 million fiscal 2009 budget. As of 2008, there were increases in a majority of mission areas except Domestic Terrorism and Catastrophic Threats.
Recovery Act Offers New Opportunities for Grant Seekers
Published Monday, August 10th, 2009 by Lacey Loftin
The Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Education has conducted an analysis of 41 audits and 13 investigations that took place during 2003-2009. The data suggest that there are various weaknesses in the administration of grants by state and local education agencies. Due to the Recovery Act, agencies will receive increases in funding, and the OIG has recommended that Departments enhance the guidance or grant requirements, fraud awareness and prevention.
Also, a new feature on www.grants.gov will help users find and apply for all grant funding available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This includes a series of webinars and links including topics like Introduction to Grants.gov and the Recovery Act, Finding Recovery Act Opportunities and Registration to Submit Recovery Act Opportunities. All in an effort to release Recovery funding quicker and create jobs faster.
Federal research and grant funding for all but the life sciences and engineering have remained relatively steady since 1980, increasing only with the rate of inflation. The life sciences have gained the most and had spiked after 2000 to reach $30 billion as of 2004, declining to $27 billion in 2007. The engineering sector has not lost any steam, gaining in the last 10 years to hit $10 billion. With the Recovery Act, many fields will see more funding, although it will be a while before the figures are published and results are analyzed.
Departments with Largest Recovery Monies Nearly 50% Paid Out
Published Friday, July 31st, 2009 by Lacey Loftin
According to the Obama Administration’s website Recovery.gov, federal agencies receiving American Recovery and Reinvestment Act 2009 funds are submitting weekly financial and activity reports detailing their recovery activities. These reports are supposed to update government officials, Congress, and the public on how much is being spent. They also list the agencies’ completed and planned actions related to the Recovery Act. The spending data covers total dollars made available and total dollars paid out. Along with the data are links to Inspectors General pages: Findings, Status Reports, Recovery Plans, Testimony, and Government Accountability Office Findings. Report misuse of Recovery funds to Inspectors General Hotlines and find Whistleblower Information. And there are links to State Recovery Sites and Tribal News to learn about recovery progress in your area.
The Departments and Agencies with the largest monies made available are the Department of Education at $55.093 billion, and they have used about 20% to date, the Department of Health and Human Services at $41.254 billion (60% used), the Department of Labor at $23.458 billion (50% used), the Department of Transportation at $22.663 billion (45% used), and the Social Security Administration at $13.112 billion (98% used). This is on top of yearly federal budget spending per program.
One proposal to pay for national health insurance calls for imposing a surtax on income tax bills of the top 1.2% of American households. The tax would start at 1% for couples making $350,000 – $500,000. The surtax would rise to 5.4% for households making more than a million dollars; this is lower than depression era recovery efforts. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, very few small businesses would be affected. Plus, according to the proposal, small businesses that offer health insurance will see their cost reduced under the new plan. The tax increases of the House bill won’t take effect until 2011.
The Obama administration hopes that this tax increase will help pay for the record budget spending increases of the federal government, which has reached a total of $2.9 trillion in 2008. Mandatory spending now equals $1.788 trillion, an increase of 4.2%, this includes Social Security (+4.5%), Medicare (+5.2%), Medicaid and SCHIPS (+5.6%), Unemployment (+1.8%) and Interest on the National Dept (+9.2%). Discretionary spending equals $1.114 trillion, an increase of 3.1%, which includes double digit increases of 45.8% on the Global War on Terror, 12.1% on the Department of Defense, 18.7% for the Department of Veterans Affairs, 22% for the Department of State, and 13.1% for the Department of Transportation.
According to a United Nations report, hunger in South Asia has reached levels not seen in 40 years as prices of food and fuel have risen and the global economy slows. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) states that 100 million more people are going hungry compared to two years ago. The areas most affected are Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan, all of which are seeing upheavals and conflict. The World Bank states that three quarters of the population or 1.2 billion live on $2 a day and nearly 400 million (including children) are chronically hungry. Factors for the rising numbers include declining wages at home, a drop in monies sent home from abroad, and high prices that force people to borrow money at high interest. Children are being pulled out of school and sent to work; income is being spent on food but not on other essentials; and women are forgoing food for families.
The report suggests that the two biggest countries, India and Pakistan, reduce their defense budgets to allow for an increase in social spending, plus the use of fiscal stimulus programs. Foreign aid is also mentioned as a remedy. Big spenders like Norway and the Netherlands have decreased foreign aid funds, yet after several years of decline, the United States has increased its foreign aid in 2008. The FY 2010 budget promises a further increase in foreign aid and assistance.
President Requests Funding for Transit Construction Projects
Published Monday, May 18th, 2009 by Lacey Loftin
According to the Department of Transportation, last week President Obama sent to Congress a request for $1.83 billion in funding for major transit projects, which promises to create jobs and increase both bus and light transit rail options for commuters and travelers. More than $600 million of the funds are for new projects in places such as New Jersey and Colorado, adding up to 39 projects. The announcement detailed 29 projects of which have received federal commitments for funding in previous years; the last 10 are split between new major transit capital construction and the expansion of smaller transit projects.
The emergence of new construction projects for mass transit has come from the presidential initiative to increase the construction and use of alternative transportation to cut emissions and create jobs. Currently, emissions from cars contribute 88.4% of the US share of carbon dioxide, 56% of all carbon monoxide, and 55% of our share of oxides of nitrogen. Currently, the total highway system mileage (distance measured in miles) has increased steadily since 1975 to 4.016 million miles of roads, which handle a steady increase in national miles driven year after year. However, transit rail miles, which includes commuter rail, has surged and ebbed to settle at 6,972 miles of track in 2006.
New Study to Improve Early Tornado Warning Systems
Published Friday, May 15th, 2009 by Lacey Loftin
With Tornado season in full swing, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has initiated a joint project that explores the origins, structure and evolution of tornados. The project, Verification of the Origin of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment 2 (VORTEX2) involves more than 50 scientists, 40 vehicles and 10 mobile radars. Its objective is to collect data in order understand how tornadoes form and how the large-scale environment of thunderstorms is related to tornado function. The principle area of interest is the Great Plains including South Dakota, western Iowa, eastern Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, the Texas panhandle, and western Oklahoma. Preliminary results from V2 are scheduled for presentation at Penn State during the 2009 fall semester. Funding for the study — amounting to $11.9 million — will come from NOAA and the National Science Foundation, 10 universities, and 3 non-profit organizations.
The initial VORTEX study operated during 1994 and 1995; its findings led to a greater understanding of the entire life cycle of tornadoes. The results of the study may, in part, be responsible for the improved National Weather Service severe weather warning statistics. Given the spike in the number of tornadoes in recent years, the improvements to the NWS have managed to significantly reduce the nationwide number of fatalities due to severe weather and tornadoes.
As of Thursday night, Swine Flu has infected 91 people and one death has been attributed to the virus. According to the CDC, Swine Flu has reared its snout frequently in the past 30 years with varying intensity. From 2005 to January 2009, a total of 12 human cases of swine flu were detected in the U.S. with no deaths. In 1976, an outbreak of Swine Flu in Fort Dix, New Jersey caused more than 200 cases with serious illness in several people and one death. A singular event in 1988 occurred when a pregnant woman in Wisconsin died from pneumonia after being infected with Swine Flu. In response to the current outbreak, the CDC has implemented its emergency response. However, the outbreak has become political as the parties argue over $780 million removed from the stimulus bill for pandemic preparedness.
The CDC’s efforts and that of the nation’s health care system have made a concerted effort to cut the number of cases of influenza in the US. Influenza and Pneumonia, during the last decade, represented the 8th greatest cause of death in the US — 72,507 deaths out of 2,425,901 in 2006. Over the course of the last decade, the rate of deaths from all types of the influenza and pneumonia has steadily reduced from 23.4 deaths per every 100,000 people in 1999 to 18.8 in 2006.
Funding Reduced for Safe and Drug-Free School Program
Published Monday, April 20th, 2009 by Lacey Loftin
At the 10 year anniversary of Columbine, the lessons learned that day have influenced the creation of near fortress-like schools. Schools have installed metal detectors and security cameras, banned backpacks, required IDs for all personnel and students, and posted police in hallways. Now, the Department of Education wants to explore the idea of creating stronger school communities that can protect themselves with or without the high-tech gear. The trend towards less costly measures has come since security funding for the Department of Education’s Safe and Drug-Free Schools program were cut by a third between 1999-2008, and the 6,300 police officers in public schools has been cut altogether in 2005. On the other hand, money for school counseling has increased since 10 years ago from $20 million in 2000 to $52 million.
While the funding for security in schools has been cut, the use of cameras and metal detectors has remained in many troubled schools that face difficulties such as guns in schools. In 2002, among the various school populations — Public, Private, Urban, Suburban and Rural — Urban schools have, by far, instituted the most security precautions of the group. Some of the most used measures are student lockers, exterior lights, materials covering classroom windows, security guards, cameras and fencing around the entire school, and parking lots monitored/locked during the day. Some of the less used methods are bars on the windows and metal detectors.
The 2010 Federal Budget has caused some concern over its $3.6 trillion price tag and some of its reforms. The new budget has called for some farm reforms that have spurred debate on both sides of the Hill. One of the main contentions is that the budget “supports the implementation of a $250,000 commodity program payment limit. The payment limit will help ensure that payments are made to those who most need them.” This program targets farm programs to family farmers and provides the stability and predictability against market disruptions and weather disasters. Moreover, the President wants to transition large farms from direct payments to increased income from revenue derived from emerging environmental services. The President will phase out direct payments over 3 years to farmers with sales revenue over $500,000.
Currently, direct payments of farm subsidies are made to even large producers regardless of crop prices, losses, or whether the land is still under production. The total cost of farm subsidies in current dollars over the last 40 years is somewhere in the neighborhood of $140 billion. This current reform has stemmed from the fact that 10% of all who received farm subsidies received 72 % of all payments made between 1996-present. Accordingly, only 13 states are awarded Farm Subsidies between $5 and $14.9 billion out of the $140 billion total.