WASHINGTON – Today, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, underscored the need for Congress to fund the Department of Homeland Security’s fiscal year 2016 budget request to help ensure that the Department can efficiently and effectively carry out its vital missions.
“From countering terrorism, to securing our borders and airports, to responding to natural disasters, few federal agencies touch the lives of Americans on a daily basis more than the Department of Homeland Security,” Sen. Carper said. “However, in order for the Department to efficiently and effectively carry out its critical role in keeping Americans safe and combatting the multiple and ever-changing threats our country faces, it needs a strong budget from this Congress. The budget that the President has requested would make a sizable investment – over $800 million dollars – in cybersecurity, and help the Department better protect our critical infrastructure and federal agencies from cyber attacks. The proposed budget also includes an increase in funding for the ongoing investments in border security, and an increase in funding for the consolidation of the Department’s Headquarters at St. Elizabeths, which would help streamline operations and management at the Department, and save taxpayers $1 billion over the next 30 years. My colleagues and I in Congress must provide this vital national security department with the resources it needs to meet its critical mission.”
During today’s committee hearing, “The Homeland Security Department’s Budget Submission for Fiscal Year 2016,” Sen. Carper asked Sec. Jeh Johnson about the impact on the Department if the House held the Department to a budget in line with the ceiling in the Budget Control Act, which is approximately $2 billion less than the Administrations’ requested funding.
“In my judgement that would represent a significant step backwards in our homeland security-border security efforts,” Sec. Johnson said. “If we have to work with the $39 billion [funding] level, I suspect that the funding for the headquarters would be in jeopardy – but I also believe that the additional funding we seek for border security, for detention capability, for aviation security, for the enhancements we need to make for the Secret Service, the hiring of additional Secret Service personnel, would be in serious jeopardy. Don’t forget that there are a number of personnel related costs tied to inflation that we would have to fund, no matter what. So everything else, we would have to take a very hard look at. And a lot of our missions are missions that I know Congress wants us to fully fund -- from border security, aviation security, counter-terrorism... It would be an ugly process to have to fund the Department at that level.”
Sec. Johnson also testified about the complex security challenges the Department must address, including its efforts to prevent and curb the thousands of undocumented individuals, families, and unaccompanied minors migrating to the U.S. southern border, mostly from Central America.
“Last year, our nation saw an unprecedented number of families and unaccompanied minors coming to our southern border,” Sen. Carper continued. “They were not escaping law enforcement, rather turning themselves in voluntarily, often seeking asylum. Secretary Jeh Johnson implemented an all-hands-on-deck strategy to address the crisis, stretching the Department of Homeland Security’s resources as far as they could go. Those efforts include a ‘truth campaign’ to warn would-be migrants in Central American nations about the very real dangers of the trip and the likelihood that they will be returned home once they arrive in this country. Fortunately, we’re already seeing results from those efforts and the number of Central American children and families apprehended at the border this year is well below what it was this time last year. That said, this problem will not be resolved overnight, and it’s likely that we have not seen the last of desperate migrants from Central America. That’s why if we want to continue to see progress on this front, we must continue to support the Department in its efforts along our borders, both at and between our ports of entry. That must include supporting the President’s FY2016 budget request for the Department, and his request for $1 billion in aid to address those root causes of the lack of hope, economic opportunity, and security driving so many Central Americans on the dangerous 1,500 mile journey north. I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting the Administration’s budget request and seize this window of opportunity to make substantial and sustainable progress in Central America, along our borders and ports of entry, and the Department’s overall mission.”