Leahy slams border wall funding as 'bumper sticker budgeting'

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Leahy slams border wall funding as 'bumper sticker budgeting'

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 4:23pm -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine Slamming the proposal as “bumper sticker budgeting,” Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) Tuesday focused on a provision in the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill that would provide $1.6 billion from American taxpayers for President Trump’s border wall with Mexico.

Leahy said:  “This is bumper sticker budgeting to save face for one of President Trump’s failed campaign promises.  Instead of wasting billions of taxpayer dollars to fund this costly and ineffective proxy for real action on immigration reform, we should be directing our resources toward finding cures for cancer, building schools for our children, feeding the hungry, rebuilding our infrastructure and real security.  We should be investing in what brings us together, not building walls that drive us apart.”

Placed in strategic locations identified by the Department of Homeland Security as being in need of additional security to prevent illegal border crossings or other illicit activities, the United States already has 654 miles of pedestrian fencing or vehicle barriers along its southern border.  The additional 74 miles of President Trump’s border wall proposed in the appropriations bill is estimated to impact 900 landowners and cost as much as $22 million per mile.  With legal disputes still ongoing from border wall construction a decade ago in Texas, the legal costs of new construction are expected to be astronomical and drawn out over years.

With illegal border crossings on the decline and apprehensions along the southern border reaching historic lows, Leahy argued that American tax dollars should be spent elsewhere and invested in the American people.  If the bill had gone through markup in the full Senate Appropriations Committee, Leahy would have offered an amendment that would have blocked funding for the wall unless it was paid for by Mexico, as President Trump promised.

Leahy said:  “President Trump ran on a clear campaign promise – he was going to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and Mexico would pay for it.  He could not have been clearer.  I have also been clear about how I feel about this misguided campaign promise.  Building a wall along our southern border is a waste of taxpayer dollars and an insult to our neighbor to the South.  From every perspective, this costly wall is an unwelcome turkey.”    

SUMMARY

DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY

FISCAL YEAR 2018 APPROPRIATIONS BILL

Chairman’s Mark: November 21, 2017

The Senate Appropriations Committee Tuesday made public the Chairman’s Mark of the fiscal year 2018 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill. The bill provides a total discretionary appropriation of $51.565 billion.  The net discretionary total is $44.050 billion after the following amounts are excluded:  $559 million in emergency appropriations for disaster relief; cap adjustment funding of $6.793 billion for disaster relief; and $163 million for Overseas Contingency Operations.   

U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Ranking Member of the Department of Homeland Security Subcommittee, said:

“The annual Homeland Security Appropriations bill is critically important for our national security, cybersecurity, airport security, and our emergency responders.  Unfortunately, this bill funds a costly and ineffective border wall that is wasting taxpayers’ money and blocking a bipartisan debate on this important legislation.  We can’t spend billions of dollars on a wall at the expense of our firefighters, airports, ports, transit hubs, and local communities. We can secure our borders more effectively with better technology and more manpower without saddling our kids and grandkids with the debt a border wall will require. As the appropriations process moves forward, I hope we can reignite a spirit of compromise and working together.”

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said:

“President Trump ran on a clear campaign promise – he was going to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and Mexico would pay for it.  He could not have been clearer.  I have also been clear about how I feel about this misguided campaign promise.  Building a wall along our southern border is a waste of taxpayer dollars and an insult to our neighbor to the South.

To pay for Trump’s wall, vital programs have been slashed out of this bill, which will make our country less safe.  This is bumper sticker budgeting at its worst, and it is why it is important that we reach a bipartisan budget deal as soon as possible.  A budget deal that allows us to invest in the American people – not waste their tax dollars on a misguided wall.”

Key Points & Highlights

While the bill rejects the Administration’s request to hire 850 deportation officers and denies the request to increase the number of detention beds, full funding is provided for the President’s unnecessary border wall.  The Administration has yet to provide a comprehensive plan on how the Department plans to secure the southwest border, including the total number of miles required for the wall, its full cost, an extensive analysis of alternatives, a cost-benefit analysis, and how eminent domain concerns will be addressed.

In order to fund the border wall and other assets not requested in the budget, the bill cuts funding for border security technologies, aviation security, and Federal assistance to secure our local communities.  Three critical laboratories are eliminated, weakening our defenses against biological, radiological, and chemical attacks.  Making matters even worse, there is a Department-wide reduction that will make it more difficult for front line components to operate effectively.  

  • Customs and Border Protection. The bill provides $13.543 billion for CBP.  In order to fully fund the border wall, significant reductions are made to other smart, proven, and immediately deployable border security technologies.  This includes significant reductions to non-intrusive inspection systems, targeting enhancements, and unattended ground sensors.  There are major cuts to investments in air and marine assets including no funding for a requested upgrade to a Blackhawk helicopter, funding only one multi-role enforcement aircraft (a key land and maritime border security asset) and other aircraft sensors and spare parts.  Additionally, no funds are included to hire more CBP officers at our ports of entry.  When combined with the reductions in the bill and the primary focus on border security between the ports, travelers will likely experience longer wait times to cross our land borders and longer lines to enter through our airports while importers will experience longer wait lines to deliver manufactured goods and fresh vegetables.  Language is included, however, focusing on security and travel requirements on our northern border and directing enhanced staffing. Importantly, $15 million is directed to procure equipment to interdict shipments of opioids being smuggled into this country.  This epidemic is touching every American life and all means must be marshalled to stop this threat from outside our borders.
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  The bill includes $6.665 billion for ICE. The bill rejects the requests to hire 850 deportation officers and to fund 51,379 detention beds.  Funds are included to maintain the average daily bed population assumed in fiscal year 2017.  The Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program is funded at the requested level of $178 million with language regarding the use of ATD on children and immigrant families and release of those who do not pose a public security risk.  The bill includes funds to hire 150 criminal investigators and support staff for child exploitation; smuggling and trafficking of humans, weapons, and drugs; and other transnational crime cases.
  • Transportation Security AdministrationTSA is funded at $7.142 billion.  With fee revenue offsetting this amount, the net appropriation is $4.672 billion. Funding for Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) is reduced by $83 million at a time when passenger volume continues to increase.  This will result in a reduction of over 1,000 TSOs and longer security wait times for air travelers.  The bill cuts TSA’s Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams from 31 to 8.  These security teams provide a visible security presence and deterrence at all modes of transportation.  Eighteen cities would lose VIPR teams if this bill is enacted and the number of operations would be cut by approximately 74 percent.  Importantly, the bill rejects the request to eliminate the TSA Law Enforcement Reimbursement program and provides $45 million for its continuation, the same level as in fiscal year 2017.  Over 300 airports nationwide participate in the program to assist TSA in ensuring the safety and security of persons and property at TSA-passenger security checkpoints.  The bill includes $77 million to continue staffing airport exit lanes, rejecting the Administration’s proposal to eliminate the program and shift the burden to airports.  
  • Coast Guard.  The Coast Guard is funded at $9.338 billion, excluding mandatory and overseas contingency funding.  Of note, funding is included for the first Offshore Patrol Cutter and four Fast Response Cutters, as requested.  These ships are replacing aging cutters that are long passed their expected service life and will enhance the Coast Guard’s ability to conduct search and rescue operations, enforce border security, interdict drugs, and respond to disasters.  The bill also includes $7.3 billion to sustain front-line operations, including funds to operate new assets, military and civilian pay, and parity with DoD Services for military benefits.
  • Secret Service.  The bill funds the Secret Service at $1.956 billion.  This includes: $47 million for protective countermeasures for emerging threats against the President and Vice President; $8.4 million in support to investigators of missing and exploited children; and $19.8 million for support to computer forensics training for state and local law enforcement, legal, and judicial professionals.
  • National Protection and Programs Directorate.  NPPD is funded at $1.803 billion.    Major investments include: $731 million in cybersecurity for federal network protection; $257 million for nationwide cyber incident response teams and cybersecurity technical assistance to state, local and tribal governments;  $341 million to continue working with industry sectors to safeguard critical infrastructure (from dams to banks) against catastrophic failures due to terrorism or natural disasters; and $164.8 million for nationwide emergency communication network protection and call prioritization during disasters.  The bill also includes $1.476 billion, in fee funding, for the Federal Protective Service to safeguard federal employees and property.
  • Office of Health Affairs.  OHA is funded at $113 million.  Major investments include $79 million for early detection of a chemical or biological attack.  The bill eliminates   the National Biosurveillance Integration Center (NBIC) as proposed in the budget.   NBIC played a major role in information sharing and decision-making during the recent ebola, zika, and other emerging threats incidents.  This termination will reduce the Nation’s and the Department’s awareness and early warning of biological threats. 
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency.  FEMA is funded at $4.518 billion, including $559 million designated as emergency and excluding disaster cap adjustment funding of $6.793 billion.  Funding will support a portion of FEMA’s past preparedness and response efforts to support disasters and provide grants to state, local, tribal and territorial governments to maintain core capabilities for extraordinary events.  Funding is reduced for port, transit, and pre-disaster mitigation grants.       

Funding highlights include:

  • $2.849 billion for grants and training to state, local, tribal and territorial governments for terrorism prevention; disaster mitigation; firefighting equipment and hiring; and maintaining emergency management core capabilities.  Some of the deep cuts proposed in the budget are rejected, however funds to protect ports are cut by 50 percent, security funds for transit systems are cut by 40 percent, and pre-disaster mitigation grants are cut by 25 percent.
  • The bill provides only $27.5 million for Urban Search and Rescue teams, a reduction of $10.8 million or 28 percent.   The capabilities of USAR teams, many of which responded to recent hurricanes and wildfires, would be greatly diminished by this bill. 
  • $80.9 million for capital projects related to emergency communications infrastructure and maintenance of Mt. Weather Emergency Operations Center. 
  • $7.352 billion to fully fund disaster relief efforts known prior to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, Nate and communities affected by wildfires, which are being funded through separate legislation.  This amount includes $6.793 billion in cap adjustment funding and $559 million in emergency funds. 
  • United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.  USCIS is funded at $132 million in direct appropriations. USCIS is an almost entirely fee-funded agency and the budget assumes collection of $4.31 billion in fees to process applications for green cards, naturalization, asylum and refugee claims among many other categories.  The bill permits the use of $10 million for citizenship assistance grants to lawfully present aliens. The appropriated funds are used for operation and expansion of the E-Verify employment verification system.
  • Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers.  FLETC is funded at $241 million.  Funding will allow interagency law enforcement training for 91 United States government federal law enforcement agencies on four main campuses. 
  • Science and Technology. S&T is funded at $720 million.  The bill eliminates funding for three laboratory facilities -- the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center, the Chemical Security Analysis Center, and the National Urban Security Technology Laboratory.  This decision will result in a national security gap in countering biological, radiological, and chemical threats.  In addition, the bill provides $37 million for University Programs, $7.1 million more than the request.
  • Domestic Nuclear Detection Office.  DNDO is funded at $310 million.  Included in this amount is a $1.2 million increase in support to state and local detection programs.  The Securing the Cities program is funded at $21.135 million – the same as fiscal year 2017 and the request.  The bill includes a reduction of $31.6 million for acquisitions of large scale detection systems and human portable rad/nuclear detection systems.
  • Office of Inspector General.  OIG is funded at $127 million, $48 million or 38 percent less than fiscal year 2017.  The bill includes a $48 million transfer from the Disaster Relief Fund.   However, because DRF funds can only be used for disaster audits, all other DHS investigative work will be reduced, including border security and immigration activities.

Source: WASHINGTON (TUESDAY, Nov. 21, 2017) – Leahy