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Monday, December 4, 2023

Flat DHS Budget in Biden Request Includes Increases for Cyber Threats, Domestic Terror

President Biden would keep overall discretionary funding for the Department of Homeland Security flat while giving targeted increases to mission segments including cybersecurity, immigration, and climate resilience, according to numbers released by the White House on Friday.

Biden’s preliminary discretionary budget request allocates $52 billion to DHS, about the same as the department received in 2021.

DHS was unique among government entities in the “skinny” budget proposal: most departments would see budget increases under the president’s plan, including a 41 percent hike at the Department of Education, a 28 percent raise at the Commerce Department, and a 21 percent boost at the Environmental Protection Agency. Non-DHS entities with a stake in homeland security also would get funding boosts, including 25 percent more for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and double the budget for the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Within DHS, a couple immigration-related areas would get funding boosts under Biden’s plan: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration  Services, which was hurting for cash after the early 2020 pandemic lockdown, would get almost triple its 2021 allocation at $345 million to help support up to 125,000 refugee admissions in 2022, expanded access to the Alternatives to Detention program, and enhanced asylum processing services; Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement would see their Offices of Professional Responsibility get $470 million — an extra $84 million “to ensure that DHS workforce complaints, including those related to white supremacy or ideological and non-ideological beliefs, are investigated expeditiously.”

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency would also get $110 million more than the 2021 level for a $2.1 billion budget, in addition to the $650 million CISA got in the American Rescue Plan, to “allow CISA to enhance its cybersecurity tools, hire highly qualified experts, and obtain support services to protect and defend federal information technology systems.” Additionally, a new Cyber Response and Recovery Fund would be started with a $20 million allocation.

DHS would also get $540 million more than the 2021 level “to incorporate climate impacts into pre-disaster planning and resilience efforts” and help support an “increase the number of FEMA staff equipped to support communities in order to prepare and respond to disasters in an equitable manner.”

The White House said the priorities for the DHS budget are technological investments in border security, running the immigration system more efficiently, defending civil rights, collaboration across government and the private sector to “detect, deter, and recover from malicious cyber attacks,” combating domestic terrorism, building climate change resilience, and supporting research and development of new homeland security technologies.

“The President’s FY 2022 discretionary funding request will reinforce the basic missions of securing our homeland, including preventing terrorism; securing and managing our borders; repairing the broken immigration system; safeguarding critical infrastructure; and strengthening national preparedness,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said. “It provides the department with targeted resources to advance commonsense policy solutions that will keep our country safe, strong, and prosperous.”

“This includes smart investments to better manage the border, promote a humane and efficient immigration system, protect civil rights, bolster cyber defenses and resilience, and address the root causes of domestic terrorism,” he said.

Under Biden’s blueprint, $1.2 billion would be allocated for border infrastructure including “modernization of land ports of entry, investments in modern border security technology and assets, and efforts to ensure the safe and humane treatment of migrants in CBP custody.” Over at the Justice Department, $891 million — an increase of 21 percent — is requested for the Executive Office for Immigration Review for 100 new immigration judges and support personnel to reduce the backlog of nearly 1.3 million immigration cases.

The budget request “includes no additional funding for border wall construction and proposes the cancellation of prior-year balances that are unobligated at the end of 2021.”

To address domestic terrorism, the budget plan provides $131 million “to support diverse, innovative, and community-driven methods to prevent domestic terrorism while respecting civil rights and liberties” and $20 million for grants “to build local capacity to prevent targeted violence and all forms of terrorism,” in addition to the Federal Emergency Management Agency Homeland Security Grant Program provision of about $75 million.

Separately, an additional $101 million is requested in the Justice Department budget “to address the rising threat of domestic terrorism while respecting civil rights and civil liberties,” including $45 million to support FBI domestic terrorism investigations, $40 million for U.S. Attorneys “to manage increasing domestic terrorism caseloads,” $12 million to boost U.S. Marshals Service response capabilities, and $4 million to the National Institute of Justice to “support research on domestic terrorism threats.”

In the administration’s pledge to revitalize R&D, $599 million would be allocated “for investments in research, development, and innovation across the department” with a primary focus on “climate resilience, cybersecurity data analytics, and transportation security technologies.” A Civilian Climate Corps would be created through the Interior Department budget.

The DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties would receive increased funding, though the document released by the White House didn’t say how much, “to address the press of complaints the office has received, but has been unable to process because of staffing shortages.”

DHS said in a statement that the funding levels highlighted in the preliminary budget document “reflect only one element of the president’s broader agenda,” and “in the coming months, the administration will release the president’s budget, which will present a unified, comprehensive plan to address the many challenges we face in a fiscally and economically responsible way.” The White House said the final budget would include “major, complementary mandatory investments and tax reforms.”

Elsewhere in the budget blueprint, the administration said its discretionary request for the Small Business Administration “provides additional staffing capacity for SBA’s government contracting programs to deliver on the president’s goal of increasing the share of federal contracts awarded to Small Disadvantaged Businesses (SDBs) to 15 percent by 2025.”

“Setting aside a larger share of contracts for SDBs would significantly expand the number of opportunities for small businesses owned by individuals who are socially and economically disadvantaged,” the document said.

Non-base funding for disaster relief and wildfire suppression would see 9.6 and 4.3 percent increases, respectively, while overall defense spending would tick up 1.7 percent.

Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson
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 terrorism analyst and security consultant with a specialty in online open-source extremist propaganda, incitement, recruitment, and training. She hosts and presents in Homeland Security Today law enforcement training webinars studying a range of counterterrorism topics including conspiracy theory extremism, complex coordinated attacks, critical infrastructure attacks, arson terrorism, drone and venue threats, antisemitism and white supremacists, anti-government extremism, and WMD threats. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15 and a private investigator. Bridget 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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