CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan views border wall prototypes near San Diego on Oct. 12, 2017. (Charles Csavossy/CBP)

$1.6B Border Security Omnibus Allocation Going to Fencing, Tech – Not Wall

Another government shutdown was avoided Friday as President Trump, after ruminating about a veto on Twitter during the morning, signed a $1.3 trillion spending bill that was forged on a bipartisan basis and drew opposition from both sides of the aisle as well.

The omnibus slated $1.6 billion for border security, but under a bipartisan agreement none of those funds will go toward the concrete border wall sought by Trump. The president wanted $25 billion over the next decade for the proposed project.

Instead, $641 million will go toward fencing on the southern border while $960 million will be allocated to border surveillance technology and repairing existing infrastructure.

Trump said that despite his disappointment with the border wall funding and misgivings about the sheer size of the spending package, he was swayed to support it because of nearly $700 billion in defense spending. That includes a 2.4 percent raise for the troops.

At a news conference Friday with Trump, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen echoed Trump’s rationale that the border security allocation amounted to “a down payment on a border wall system.”

“This is a 10 percent increase for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This will help us improve our aviation security with some badly needed upgrades. And we look forward to working with Congress on additional needs that we have,” Nielsen said. “I will say, however, that it’s unfortunate that Congress chose not to listen to the men and women of DHS and those on the front lines. They told us how to build the wall, where to build the wall, and we will continue to work with them to make sure that the wall is where we need it, how we need it, as the president described, and to make sure that it serves the American people and serves the security of this nation.”

“We also will continue to work with Congress to close the dangerous loopholes that the president has mentioned many times and to continue to increase our overall security,” she added, telling Congress to “fund the department and give it the tools and resources it needs to execute the mission the American people have asked us to do.”

Law enforcement agencies along the northern border will share with southern border agencies an $85 million allocation to help fight drug and human smuggling in their communities.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said he voted against the 2,232-page bill, in part, because “it continues to fund sanctuary cities, which are defying the law and making Americans less safe” and “it fails to provide sufficient funds to properly secure our border, let alone build the wall that is necessary.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who voted in favor of the omnibus, declared that “improving border security, giving our troops a pay raise, taking care of our veterans, and finally funding our nation’s defense at a necessary level are real victories for the American people in this bill.”

“However, increasing the federal deficit should not be the asking price for fulfilling our most basic commitments to national security,” he added. “In fact, a major flaw is that it took excess spending increases and last-second process changes to make good on these priorities.”

The bill also includes $249 million for FEMA’s pre-disaster mitigation program, a provision pushed by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) after a brutal wildfire season that drained the state’s emergency wildfire fund.

With pushes from lawmakers in states hit especially hard by overdose rates, $4 billion is being poured into programs to help battle the opioid crisis.

“We are funding our Border Patrol agents and our ICE agents. They are working long hours under tremendously dangerous conditions,” Trump said. “We’re adding large numbers of immigration judges, high-quality judges. Not only are we adding them in the district court level and the federal level of court of appeals, but we’re adding immigration judges at a very high level.”

“So while we’re very disappointed in the $1.3 trillion — nobody more disappointed than me, because the number is so large — it’ll start coming down,” the president added. “We had no choice but to fund our military, because we have to have by far the strongest military in the world. And this will be, by far, the strongest military that we’ve ever had.”

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Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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