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Washington D.C.
Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Senate Appropriations Committee Addresses President’s FY 2017 DHS Budget Request

The Senate Appropriations Committee Homeland Security Subcommittee held a hearing last week to review President Obama’s fiscal year (FY) 2017 budget request and funding justification for the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The FY 2017 budget request for DHS calls for $40.6 billion in appropriated funds with an increase in total spending authority to $66.8 billion, compared to $64.8 billion in FY 2016. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson presented the DHS 2017 budget request at the hearing. Budget requests include:

  • $5.1 billion for transportation screening operations, including increased screening personnel, to ensure the security of the nation’s airways, a $100 million increase;
  • $1.6 billion, an increase of over $200 million, to fund our vital cybersecurity mission, including increased investments in the Continuous Diagnostic Mitigation program;
  • $1.9 billion for the Secret Service, which is the same as enacted in FY 2016, to protect our national leaders, fight cyber-crime, and support increased hiring;
  • $319 million to cover costs associated with unaccompanied children and families;
  • $1.1 billion for recapitalization of the US Coast Guard’s assets, including a sizable investment in the Nation’s future arctic capability; and
  • $226 million for continued investment in the construction of a future DHS headquarters at St. Elizabeth’s.

Johnson told lawmakers that he hopes to leave DHS a better place than he found it; consequently, management reform will be the Department’s main focus in the year ahead. The Unity of Effort initiative—a strategy announced in April 2014 to steer DHS towards more centralized programming, budgeting, and acquisition processes—has been, and will continue to be, central to the Department’s efforts to increase transparency.

“Like last year, reforming the way in which the DHS functions and conducts business, to more effectively and efficiently deliver our services to the American people, is my overarching objective for 2016,” Johnson stated. “We’ve done a lot in the last two years, but there is still much we will do. There are still too many stove pipes and inefficiencies in the Department.”

Johnson testified that the funding requests will support the following areas of homeland security:

Counterterrorism: It remains the cornerstone of the DHS’s mission in 2016, explaining, “We are in a new phase in the global terrorist threat, requiring a whole new type of response. We have moved from a world of terrorist-directed attacks to a world that includes the threat of terrorist-inspired attacks.”

In order to prevent further attacks on the homeland, the DHS has increased its communications and cooperation with state and local law enforcement, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Johnson said DHS continues to share intelligence and information with the FBI, Joint Terrorism Task Forces, fusion centers, local police chiefs and sheriffs.

In addition, in FY 2015, DHS provided homeland security assistance to state and local governments for active shooter training exercises, overtime for cops and firefighters, and salaries for emergency managers. For example, the Department helped to fund an active shooter training exercise that took place in the New York City subways last November and a series of these exercises earlier this month in Miami.

“Given the current threat environment, it is the cop on the beat who may be the first to detect the next terrorist attack in the United States,” Johnson stated.

To prevent the border from becoming a gateway for terrorist entry into the US, DHS has also strengthened the Visa Waiver Program, which enables eligible citizens or nationals of designated countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for 90 days or less without first obtaining a visa.

Among other enhancements, DHS has started collecting more personal information in the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), which has led to an additional 3,000 travelers being denied travel access to the US in FY 2015.

Johnson explained the Department has also expanded their use of social media, taking advantage of over 30 different operational and investigative purposes that it provides. Starting in 2014, the Department has launched four pilot programs that involved investigating the social media of applicants for certain immigration benefits.

“Based upon the recent recommendation of a Social Media Task Force within DHS, I have determined, consistent with relevant privacy and other laws, that we must expand the use of social media even further,” Johnson added.

Aviation Security: Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) said, “The President’s Fiscal Year 2017 request creates some real challenges for this committee. Let me first note some significant shortfalls that are in the budget request. The budget includes $909 million in proposed Transportation Security Administration (TSA) fees. Without that revenue, the TSA would be cut by almost 20 percent. Of course that is not a reduction that we can or should make with the TSA.”

Johnson says DHS has taken steps to improve aviation and airport security after multiple reports uncovered security failures at some of the nation’s busiest airports. In May of last year, for example, a DHS Inspector General’s test of TSA screenings at eight different airports reflected a dismal fail rate, and was leaked to the press.

In response, DHS created a 10-point plan to correct the problems identified by the Inspector General. According to the TSA, they have been aggressively implementing this new plan which includes “back to basics” training.

Cybersecurity: Johnson said cybersecurity is another cornerstone of DHS’s mission. The growing number of threats to cybersecurity spurred DHS to request an increase in cyber response teams from 10 to 48. DHS also wants to double the number of cybersecurity advisors in order to make effective “house calls” to assist private sector organizations.

The Department has also already expanded the capability of their National Cybersecurity Communication Integration Center (NCCIC). The NCCIC has increased its distribution of information, the number of vulnerability assessments conducted, and the number of incident responses.

Immigration/Border Security: Regarding funding for immigration, Johnson said, “The resources we have to enforce immigration laws are finite. We must use them wisely. This is true of every aspect of law enforcement.” In order to further public safety efforts, DHS did away with the controversial Secure Communities program in 2014 and replaced it with the new Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), which is designed to fix the political and legal controversies that were originally associated with Secure Communities. It enables DHS to take into direct custody the most dangerous, removable criminals.

In addition, ICE immigration enforcement officers saw a reform in their pay scale so that now their pay scale is the same as that of other federal law enforcement.

Further funds have been requested to go towards managing the refugee crisis, maintaining the Secret Service, modernizing the Coast Guard Fleet, financing the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief fund.

Johnson concluded, “Developing this budget request within the topline constraints of the bipartisan budget agreement of 2015 required difficult choices. But I am confident that the DHS will build upon the progress we have made over the past year and continue to fulfill our vital mission of keeping the homeland safe.

Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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