By Sam Pfeifle
Some observers noted this week that the U.S. Senate bill to provide continuing appropriations and effectively reopen the U.S. government also contained $3.1 million in funding for the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB).
Was this an indication that the Senate was sneaking in extra funding for PCLOB in light of the NSA revelations and increased awareness of privacy issues?
Not quite. As explained by Sharon Bradford Franklin, recently named executive director of the PCLOB, the situation where the PCLOB finds itself being funded in a bill to end the shutdown of the U.S. government has been uniquely created by the political atmosphere in Washington, DC, which finds Congress largely unable to pass an actual annual budget.
Since budgeting is being done via continuing resolutions, that means you have to actually have a budget in place to be continued. As PCLOB has been on hiatus for so long and only recently restarted with the appointment of Chairman David Medine, the board didn’t have a budget to continue. Rather, it had what Franklin called a “placeholder” budget of $900,000 that had been included in budgets since the last time PCLOB was active.
“But that placeholder was never at a level that anyone thought was enough for basic operations,” she said. “So in our report that we submitted in June, we calculated our budget needs at $3.1 million, and that’s what made it into the president’s budget.” And that’s what made it into the compromise bill that reopened the U.S. government.
So, now PCLOB has jumped yet another hurdle as it comes back from the dead: “We can now move forward without fear of our own shutdown,” said Franklin.
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