WASHINGTON, Feb 14 (Reuters) - The Obama administration on Monday proposed a nearly 2 percent increase in spending on U.S. homeland security for 2012, one the few areas of the budget that will likely see a boost as the White House battles a ballooning deficit.
Its 2012 budget proposal requests $43.8 billion for homeland security across the entire federal government, excluding the Defense Department, up $800 million from 2011.
The request for the increase comes as militant groups like the al Qaeda wing based in Yemen have increased their efforts to strike the United States, including plots to blow up bombs on airplanes or in major city centers.
The Department of Homeland Security alone would see its budget grow to more than $37 billion, up almost 3 percent over the 2011 budget level, and includes additional funds for ramping up transportation and border security.
While the 2012 budget proposal called protecting the American people President Barack Obama’s “highest priority”, administration officials will likely face close scrutiny by Congress about where and how they spend the money.
Republicans, who now control the U.S. House of Representatives, have criticized the failure by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies to detect several recent attacks, including attempts by the al Qaeda group in Yemen to blow up U.S. passenger and cargo planes.
The U.S. Transportation Security Administration hopes to buy more full-body scanners to detect explosives and other weapons potential attackers may hide on their bodies that cannot be detected by traditional metal detectors.
Already TSA has deployed nearly 500 of the scanners at 78 airports, about half made by L-3 Communications Holdings Inc (LLL.N), and officials hope to increase that number in the coming months. Further, DHS has sought to increase security screening for cargo entering the United States.
The budget also includes additional funds, about $3 billion, to better protect against a chemical, biological, nuclear or radiological attack as well as critical infrastructure like power grids. (Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky, editing by Anthony Boadle)