An understaffed and poorly funded Department of Homeland Security office dedicated to fighting improvised explosive devices will receive a substantial budget increase and expanded duties if proposed legislation passes this year.
The Office for Bombing Prevention deals with the detection and mitigation of explosive threats, but employs only four personnel and a handful of contractors and has a $10 million budget. So far the office, which is part of the DHS infrastructure protection division, has only been able to review half of the states' bomb security programs because of inadequate funding, said a congressional source who investigated the office.
The National Bombing Prevention Act of 2008 would boost the office's budget to $25 million per year.
"It's a big increase, but (the office) has been getting by on a shoestring," said a Republican committee staffer.
Introduced as an amendment to the Homeland Security Act of 2002, the bill has strong bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate and the endorsement of DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff. Two congressional staffers, who declined to be named, said they expect the bill to pass.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and a co-sponsor of the Senate version of the bill, said FBI and DHS officials have told her that, "the...