|COMPETITION Construction, other industries seek DHS work. (Photo by Michael Goodman for ENR)|
In Washington, the Dept. of Homeland Security, which incorporated about 20 separate agencies only 15 months ago, is still in its organizational youth. But it is huge, with 180,000 workers and a $36.5-billion budget this year. President Bush wants to see that funding rise 10% for fiscal 2005, to $40.2 billion.
The federal security effort has produced some contracts for design and construction firms, particularly in reconfiguring airport terminals and assessing surface and maritime transport threats. But there hasnt been as much business as bullish industry forecasters had hoped.
Aviation security remains an active field. Airports can draw on a new Aviation Security Capital Fund established by last years "Vision 100" law. The fund has $250 million appropriated for 2004. But transit and port officials think theyre being shortchanged at DHS. Transit got $115 million for security over the past two years. The industry is asking for $2 billion in 2005. In maritime security, the American Association of Port Authorities wants $400 million in DHSgrants for 2005. That would nearly match the $493.5 million ports have received since the 2001 terrorist attacks.
So far, however, DHS has resisted port and transit pleas. Stephen J. McHale, deputy administrator of DHSs Transportation Security Administration, told a May 12 House hearing that while his agency is taking steps to protect various transport modes, "Aviation, where federal jurisdiction is paramount, must continue to be a primary focus of TSA activities."
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At DHS, "Theyve got a budget problem," says Michael P. Jackson, senior vice president in AECOMs Fairfax, Va., office. "And I dont expect that the administrations going to ask for terrifically large amounts of money to address these diverse infrastructure needs."
But Jackson, former deputy secretary of the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, says he thinks some hikes will be approved for transit and rail, for example. For firms like AECOM, that could lead to work designing backup communications facilities, hardening rail access points or bolstering freight rail yard security. Still, "I dont believe it will be transformational for the industry in terms of a large infusion" of funds, he says.
Design firm HDR continues work for the former Immigration and Naturalization and Customs services, now parts of DHS. "Were doing a lot of work for them on the borders," especially in architecture, says Larry Bory, HDR vice president for federal government relations. But there is competition from other industries and contracts with other DHS units have been harder to snag.