WASHINGTON -- As federal spending to fight terrorism is set to more than double in just two years, the White House must improve coordination with Congress to ensure the money is spent properly, a congressional report concludes.
Data now provided to Congress does not allow for proper oversight, says the study released Wednesday. In addition, it says, "There is no transparency for making policy choices and tradeoffs between combating terrorism and other activities."
The report was done by the General Accounting Office, an investigative wing of Congress.
"This study shows that the OMB must make significant improvements reporting to Congress on money appropriated to combat terrorism," said House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., who requested the report with other lawmakers.
The OMB, or Office of Management and Budget, is the White House budget office.
Before the Sept. 11 attacks, $20 billion was allocated to the fight against terrorism, the report said. After the attacks, an emergency spending bill plus the budget for fiscal 2002 contained about $37 billion for antiterror work, which now included homeland security. And for fiscal year 2003, which began Oct. 1, the Bush administration requested $45 billion.
The study noted that the OMB, in trying to coordinate the terrorism budget, must deal with numerous agencies and the uncertainties of the new Homeland Security Department, which President Bush signed into law this week and will be put together over the next year.
The OMB has taken steps in preparing next year's budget that will improve transparency, it said, but needs to do more.
In particular, the report concluded, the OMB must complete its annual report on terrorism spending before March 1 so it will be useful as Congress works on the budget for 2004 budget, and identify duplications. The annual report has been required by law since 1997.
OMB also needs to keep Congress informed on obligations -- how much money has actually been spent or committed -- so lawmakers will know how much money is left over from prior years and how fast money approved for anti-terror programs is being spent, the report said.