Chaired By: Rep. David E. Price (D-NC)
Witness: Janet Napolitano, Secretary Of Homeland Security
Copyright ©2009 by Federal News Service, Inc., Ste. 500, 1000 Vermont Ave, Washington, DC 20005 USA. Federal News Service is a private firm not affiliated with the federal government. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service, Inc. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a United States government officer or employee as a part of that person's official duties. For information on subscribing to the FNS Internet Service at www.fednews.com, please email Carina Nyberg at email@example.com or call 1-202-216-2706.
REP. PRICE: (Sounds gavel.) Subcommittee will come to order.
Good afternoon. This afternoon we're pleased to welcome Secretary Janet Napolitano to her first hearing before this subcommittee.
Since her confirmation on January 20th, Secretary Napolitano has hit the ground running, dealing with issues related to drug cartel violence along the U.S./Mexico border; focusing how the administration deals with criminal aliens; forging new, international partnerships to enhance our efforts to combat terrorism; and taking the lead on the U.S. response to the H1N1 flu public health emergency in the United States and other countries.
Now, Madame Secretary, in light of all this maybe you should be thanking us for giving you a few hours to catch your breath today.
While you've been busy confronting these pressing issues this subcommittee has tackled some of the broader questions the department faces. Unlike previous years when the budget has dominated our discussions -- the detailed budget -- this year we've concentrated on broader issues, touching every component of the Department of Homeland Security, from preparing for a national security event to recovering from natural disasters; from technology acquisitions to improve DHS operations to expeditiously obligating funds for critical grant programs; from immigration enforcement to meeting the basic medical needs of those in the custody of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
By developing this broader perspective, we in Congress, I believe, are better equipped to help set the department's budget priorities in a way that best prepares you to face the diversity of challenges to our homeland.
One of the first challenges you've confronted is the surge in violence along the U.S.-Mexican border. The conflict between the Mexican government and drug traffickers has killed thousands, including hundreds of police, military and public officials.
You and a number of your administration colleagues have visited the border and Mexico. You and others have appeared at multiple congressional hearings on this topic, including one held by this subcommittee. And all the while this issue's been the subject of intense media attention.
On April 15th you announced a Southwest Border Initiative to fortify our physical border with Mexico to assist their government in overcoming the brutal criminal cartels and to address related criminal activity within the U.S., including narcotics, weapons and human trafficking.
Every member of this subcommittee, I assure you, wants this effort to succeed. Yet, I offer a word of caution: Making real progress against criminal activity that has simmered for decades will take more than a surge of activity at DHS and assistance to those on the front lines. It's going to take a new, coordinated approach across our government and indeed across our society.
As part of this, DHS must work in harmony with the departments of Justice, Interior, Defense, State and Treasury, all of which have somewhat overlapping jurisdictions. You and your fellow secretaries must consider new strategies to overcome the tradition of stovepiped responses that focus individual agencies on discrete missions like combating illegal drug suppliers without addressing the demand, or focusing on weapons smuggling without combating human trafficking and so on. This initiative, by its very nature, will also help address the long-standing problem of illegal immigration.
While apprehensions at the border are currently falling, our enforcement-only approach costs the American people billions. And it's not a viable, long-term solution. In this regard I'm pleased that the president has announced his commitment to reform a broken immigration system.
I've consistently maintained that without a comprehensive approach to fix the legal means for people to come to our country and to achieve parity between official policy and our labor market needs, investments otherwise made along the border and for interior enforcement will never be fully effective at halting illegal immigration.
Therefore, in the absence of comprehensive reform of our immigration policy -- or shall I say pending comprehensive reform? -- we certainly hope so -- pending comprehensive reform, we on this subcommittee must ensure the department focuses its resources on the nations' highest immigration-related priorities.
To this end, since I've served as chairman we've provided over $1.2 billion for DHS to locate aliens convicted of crimes and serving time in prison and to deport those individuals from the United States after an immigration court has ordered them to leave.
Madame Secretary, I'm encouraged by your commitment to thwart cross-border violence and to find and deport criminal aliens. I also support the department's recently issued guidelines for ICE investigators to make employer prosecution the focus of its worksite enforcement activities.
These endeavors will need constant and thoughtful attention in their implementation. We'd like to hear more about how you will focus DHS resources on these priorities, particularly how you will work within DHS with other Cabinet departments and with state and local agencies and with the country of Mexico on cross-border problems.
While you're focusing on these issues, DHS is also responding to the outbreak of H1N1 influenza. Since the Department of Health and Human Services declared H1N1 flu a public health emergency in the United States, the government has mobilized resources and made preparations in case the outbreak develops into a true pandemic.
As the principal federal official for domestic incident management, Madame Secretary, you're charged with coordinating preparation and response throughout the government.
The spread of H1N1 flu is another reminder of the critical need for a robust system to identify and effectively respond to threats of all types, whether man-made or natural. This all-hazards mentality is one that I've long advocated for the Department of Homeland Security to adopt in full, and it's a philosophy I believe our president also embraces.
As the current outbreak demonstrates, the threats our country faces are diverse and evolving. Consequently, the systems we have in place to prepare for and mitigate these threats must be comprehensive and adaptable, just as the resources we allocate to addressing these threats must be based on a holistic understanding of risk to the American people.
Finally, before we get to your statement, I wan to address your fiscal year 2010 budget, the budget request that we received last week.
In total, the discretionary budget requests $42.7 billion for DHS, or a 6.3 percent increase over the comparable amount appropriated in 2009. I'm pleased to note that in general the budget does not continue the disingenuous practice of leaving holes where the administration knows Congress has strong interests, such as state and local grants.
In doing so, though, you've obviously made it harder for yourself. You've had to make some hard decisions about investments that cannot move forward at this time, such as advanced spectroscopic portal monitors, for example, because of technical problems.
You also appear to have taken a more pragmatic approach to solving complex problems, for example, by requesting, at this time, no additional funding for implementation of a biometric exit program under US-VISIT, at least until technical and regulatory and diplomatic issues can be resolved.
Within the total request I was pleased to see almost $200 million for identifying and removing criminal aliens through the Secure Communities program, an increase of more than 30 percent over last year's level.
I see an additional $70 million to take on the criminal organizations operating along the Southwest border.
There's an increase of about ($)800 million for the Transportation Security Administration to accelerate much-needed improvements in baggage screening and to enhance service transportation protection programs.
There's a 26 percent increase in funding for the department's Science and Technology Directorate to make it harder for terrorists to launch successful attacks with explosives, and over ($)100 million to make -- ($)100 more than last year to enhance cybersecurity programs and improve information security in-house.
Finally, I'm pleased to note that the request includes ($)3.9 billion for FEMA to support state and local activities. Our state and local first responders are our partners in homeland security. When a disaster strikes, they are first on the ground to respond, and they deserve to have a reliable partner.
Yet the budget request also includes some changes that get my attention. For example, the budget cuts fire grants -- the basic equipment grants for our firefighters -- by 70 percent. And when you include transfers, the budget reduces FEMA management administration by 10 percent. That's an agency we've been trying to rebuild since Hurricane Katrina.
Finally, you propose moving the front-line protectors of our federal offices, the Federal Protective Service, out of ICE, an agency with law enforcement experience, to the National Protection and Program's Directorate, an agency with plenty to do but with no law enforcement mission.
We will want to look at each of these proposals carefully.
So Madame Secretary, we look forward to hearing from you today.
Your full written statement will be entered into the record. And we're going to ask you to limit your oral presentation to five minutes, as is our custom.
Before we begin I want to recognize the distinguished ranking member of the full committee, Mr. Lewis, for his comments and also comment that our ranking member of the subcommittee would be here today were it not for the severe flooding in his district in his state of Kentucky. In fact, we tried very hard to rearrange this hearing so that he could be here, and there was no way to do that. But we do want Mr. Rogers and his staff to know that we're thinking about them as they face this. And I know FEMA has been mobilized overnight to deal with some needs in some of those communities.
So we miss Mr. Rogers today, and we, of course, are going to be attentive to the situation, the emergency situation they're facing in Kentucky.
We're glad, however, to have our ranking member from the full committee here, Mr. Lewis, and be happy to hear any comments he wishes to make.
REP. JERRY LEWIS (R-CA): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Secretary Napolitano, it's a privilege to be here at your first hearing before one of our committees. In the meantime, seeing Hal Rogers fighting the floods and yet experiencing the services that can be brought to our districts by way of FEMA, et cetera, is a very, very important reflection of your work and our work as well.
I must say that I've been afflicted by more than one disaster in California. FEMA has been overall very effective in its response in recent years and thereby I'm very proud of the fact that we're being responsive to the needs of people out there in times of crisis.
In the meantime, I wanted to mention briefly -- well, I note that there's a group of uniformed officers in the room. They are one of the classes of the War College -- people who are dedicating themselves to our national security on a different pathway over the years ahead.
I spent a lot of time and had the privilege of chairing at one time the subcommittee that deals with national security. And the one thing that has made that subcommittee successful over the years is that on both sides of the aisle we recognize that national security has very, very little to do with partisan politics. The same thing, over time, as this subcommittee and this arena of work matures, I expect we'll see a very, very similar pattern.
And so within that context, I just wanted to share with you my concern about a little rhetoric early on relative to a relative slight difference in philosophy in which the rhetoric accelerated itself to dealing with the extreme -- that is, extreme right-wingers, extreme left-wingers, et cetera. Such rhetoric doesn't tend to cause both sides to be able to communicate with each other as well as they might.
And I would suggest to the secretary that we are all in this together. And I'm certainly going to be talking to my members relative to this committee helping the chairman have us all together.
So having said that, it's just by way of saying that you've got an incredible job to do and all that I know about you says you're capable. If we can stick to the issues that surround effectively securing our homeland, that will be helpful to all of us.
I've seen many administration come and go. We all have to learn this process together. And frankly, I think it's a bit excessive for us to presume that you worked with us for 20 years when you're brand new on the job.
So in the meantime it's my pleasure to welcome you here and express my apologies for the fact that the Interior (Sub)committee is having a hearing in about 15 minutes that I must attend because it has to do with fires in the West. So as Hal Roger is worried about water in Kentucky, I'm worried about fires in the West. And so you'll excuse me and Judge Carter and his able hands will take my place.
In the meantime, I note a clear prioritization away from some of ICE's more important interior immigration enforcement programs, like worksite enforcement towards criminal aliens, a worthy program in its own right, but a prioritization that appears to forget that none of the 9/11 hijackers were so-called criminal aliens. Making sure that we have a balance relative to those we're really looking at is pretty fundamental to our success in this arena.
It is on another front, Madame Secretary, it's hard for me to support a 30 percent increase in your office when front-line agencies like CBP and the Coast Guard are receiving inflationary gains. It's also hard for me to agree with hundreds of millions of dollars in information technology initiatives when investments in critical operational assets are only level funded.
I would have hoped that somebody would have provided input for you early on when the stimulus package was going on so we could have tapped some of that funding in that huge package that was going forward rather than straining your budget in areas that maybe you don't need to be strained so much for the '10 year.
Madame Secretary, I note that within the president's budget, only one Cabinet agency's budget is projected to decrease over the next five years, that being DHS. While you may claim this decrease will be offset through increased aviation passenger fees, we've heard that story before.
The authorizing committees historically have not been inclined to exercise fees to carry on government work that may not be that authorizing committee's priority. So I'd be very cautious about where that might take you in terms of -- all of us want to avoid cliffs, but this is a cliff that we've seen before.
So, Madame Secretary, given the current threat environment, now is perhaps the worst time to shortchange our investment in security. And I would urge you to recognize that as we're building national security not only do we need to emphasize this nonpartisan approach that I suggested earlier -- if we talk to each other, the committees will be -- on the record and off the record -- pretty candid with you as to what levels we can see being sustained over a substantial period of time.
Further, it seems to me that within the total stimulus package there's pretty high levels of fundings for all the agencies with a lot of flexibility given. I find most agencies I talk to privately are saying we're awash in money, lot of flexibility, but not necessarily a lot of direction.
And for those agencies to presume that that level of funding as reflected in the stimulus package and that level of flexibility in programming is going to continue through the '10 year, the '11 year and the '12 year might be a very big mistake.
And indeed, yours is an agency that above and beyond almost everybody but national security needs the kind of stability that I suggest that we should be working on.
So with that, Mr. Chairman, I appreciate your giving me the time and I'm sorry I'm going to have to be leaving early, but I'm anxious to hear the secretary.
REP. PRICE: Thank you.
Madame Secretary, please proceed.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: (Off mike.) Is it on now? I'll say that again. (Laughter.)
Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Lewis, members of the subcommittee, for the opportunity to testify about the Department of Homeland Security portion of President Obama's budget proposal for FY 2010.
As noted, proposed total budget for DHS is $55.1 billion, which includes $42.7 in appropriated funding. As also noted, DHS performs a broad range of activities across a single, driving mission: to secure America from the entire range of threats that we face.
The department's leadership in the past couple of weeks in response to the H1N1 flu outbreak only proves the breadth of this department's portfolio.
We also are focused on the need to make DHS a stronger, more effective department. In my view, this budget strengthens our effort in the five main mission areas where we need to focus in order to secure the American people: first, guarding against terrorism, the founding purpose and perennial top priority of the department; second, securing our borders, an effort even more urgent as the United States looks to do its part to counter the rise in cartel violence in Mexico; third, smart and effective enforcement of our immigration laws. We need to both facilitate legal immigration and pursue enforcement against those who violate our nation's immigration standards.
Next: improving our preparation for, response to and recovery from disasters -- not just hurricanes -- that season begins in a few weeks -- tornados, earthquakes, fire, flood. I spoke with Congressman Rogers just yesterday about the situation in Kentucky -- but also unexpected situations like the H1N1 flu.
And lastly: creating a unified Department of Homeland Security. We need to work together as one department to ensure that we operate at full strength. This is important. As this subcommittee knows, our department is an amalgam of 22 different agencies that were put together after 9/11. And in some respects, the part of unifying the department is still a work in progress.
That accounts in part for the increase in administrative costs that you noted, Congressman, because when the department was formed, it did not bring with it the program managers, acquisition specialists -- all the things -- the nuts and bolts that make sure that the taxpayer dollars go where they're supposed to go and are well spent. We are building that infrastructure now.
Within those five mission areas, there are at least three approaches that crosscut.
One, we are seeking to expand our partnerships with state, local and tribal governments, the first detectors and the first responders.
Second, we are seeking to bolster our science and technology portfolio, investing in proven technologies and in new technologies that can increase our capabilities, all the while being mindful of the privacy and other interests that are implicated.
And third: maximizing efficiency. Through a program entitled Efficiency Review that we launched in March, we are determined to ensure that every security dollar is spent in the most effective way.
This proposed budget adheres to the president's major reform goals: government efficiency, transparency and cohesion, and will play a major part in bringing about a new culture of responsibility and fiscal discipline within DHS.
The DHS budget request is based on alignment with the department's priorities. And programs were assessed based on effectiveness and on risk.
Budget priorities: to guard against terrorism -- the first mission. The proposal includes ($)121 million to fund research for new technologies that detect explosives in public places and transportation networks; ($)87 million for new measures to protect critical infrastructure and cyber networks from attack; and enhanced information sharing among federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement.
For border security, this budget proposal includes ($)116 million to deploy additional staff and technology to the Southwest border to disrupt southbound smuggling of drugs and bulk cash to combat cartel violence and $40 million for smart security technology funding on the Northern border to expand and integrate surveillance systems there.
To ensure smart and effective enforcement of our immigration laws, the budget proposal includes $112 million to strengthen E-Verify to help employers maintain a legal work force, a total of $198 million for the Secure Communities Program, which helps state, tribal and local law enforcement target criminal aliens, and improve security and facilitated trade and tourism through the WHTI Initiative and US- VISIT.
To help Americans prepare for, respond to and recover from natural disasters the budget proposal includes from ($)210 million to ($)420 million -- it doubles the number of front-line firefighters supported in the budget.
It has a $600 million increase to the Disaster Relief Fund to help individuals and communities affected by disasters. It strengthens pre-disaster hazard-mitigation efforts, as well, to reduce injuries, loss of life and destruction of property.
To unify the department, this budget proposal also include ($)79 million for the consolidation of DHS headquarters, which will bring 35 disparate offices together, which will generate significant savings in the long run.
It also provides ($)200 million to consolidate and unify our IT infrastructure and bring all of DHS within one system, as opposed to the myriad systems we are operating under now.
In my few months as secretary I have seen a number of remarkable accomplishments by the men and women of this department, in addition to the challenges we have faced. I have seen this department's potential. I believe we have a path to realizing it.
We are aiming to do even better at achieving our security mission. This budget will help our department do just that.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
REP. PRICE: Thank you, Madame Secretary.
We'll now begin questioning, and I'll have the first query.
I mentioned in my opening statement, Madame Secretary, that in my view I should have no greater immigration priority than finding and removing people who've been convicted of crimes and judged deportable from the country.
From some of your public statements you seem to have similar views, but I'd like to make sure we're all on the same page about this issue, to get a little further clarification.
How do you intend to focus ICE's efforts to identify and remove deportable criminal aliens? How's this going to be reflected in your budget and also the kind of policy you implement in the department? How are you going to ensure that this focus remains a high priority for ICE? Are there other immigration priorities that compete or even take precedence over the effort to remove criminal aliens? In any event, how do you balance other priorities against the need to identify and remove criminal aliens so they're not released to commit more crimes but are deported when they complete their sentences?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I do believe that a high interest of ICE is to remove and deport criminal aliens from our population. And I say that based in little part on my own background as the former United States attorney general and two-term governor of Arizona, a border state, which perhaps more than any other state in the last years has seen the increase in illegal immigration across that border -- and having to make judgments about what is the best way to get at it, how do you do your immigration mission and public safety missions simultaneously?
Several things: one is that we look at how to use the existing programs within ICE to focus upon the criminal alien population. That means, for example, the 287g program -- 287g is a program that is a -- basically consists of MOUs between the department and state and local law enforcement. A very, very good use of 287g is to identify inmates in our prisons and jails -- those who've already run afoul of our criminal justice system -- and begin the deportation proceedings before they are released from those places of incarceration so that you don't have a gap between when you serve a state sentence and then get released into the public and then have ICE have to pick you up and start afresh with immigration enforcement.
I was, as governor, one of the first -- perhaps the first governor in the country to negotiate such an agreement with ICE for the Arizona state prison system. It's been very effective, and we've seen those agreements be effective in multiple ways.
REP. PRICE: And within the 287g program there's a good deal of variability. And I know the department has that under examination at present -- what the kind of permissible range of variability would be. But you're saying that a prime focal point of 287g -- or presumably Secure Communities or other programs of this sort -- should be this criminal alien population?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: That's right. And Secure Communities was the next point I was going to bring us to, which has been a remarkably effective program. And the budget that the president has submitted greatly increases it.
But it is really a way to unite immigration, public safety, criminal law agencies in communities across the country, to focus in the criminal alien population -- also gangs, for example, particularly in some of the states where you have large gangs that have a large percentage of illegals who are members of the gang -- allows us to really focus those efforts in a very, very good way.
A third way that this budget and our department is moving is to make sure we make great use of technology -- in other words, that we gather the identities of those who are apprehended, that we make sure that criminal records checks are run against all the relevant databases. It sounds basic. It is, but it needs to uniform, basic, constantly done and databases constantly improved. And you will see finding for that in the budget as well.
I could a number of other things.
Let me finish my answer, however, by making one point, and that is in the world of illegal immigration, ICE has to multitask. We cannot just do the criminal aliens. We have to prioritize and identify how we also do worksite enforcement, how we also handle other matters involving illegal immigration. And so I think one of the things -- one of the items I am trying to bring to bear on the department influenced by experiences I have had is how do we prioritize even with ICE as we multitask on a number of these areas.
But I think, Mr. Chairman, you are exactly right. The criminal alien population and dealing with them and being very robust there is going to be a key priority for us.
REP. PRICE: Thank you.
Or Mr. Carter, sorry.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: I think he left to go deal with --
REP. PRICE: Carter in for Lewis.
REP. JOHN R. CARTER (R-TX): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Madame Secretary, welcome. I'm glad you're here. It gives us a chance to visit. I'm looking forward to visiting with you. And you've got a tough job, real tough. Tougher than governor, I'll promise you.
I'm going to start with something that I've been upset about and raising Cain about and so I'm going to ask you about it, and that's this right-wing extremism report that was mailed out to all law enforcement officials in the United States. And when I read through it, the reason it jumped off the page at me was the classifications of folks that we ought to be watching out for make up about 80 percent of my district and I really felt that was a -- it seemed to be a little different than what we really should be talking about.
And, of course, I represent Fort Hood, Texas, where we have 50,000 fighting men and women who are constantly protecting our nation.
And many of them retire in our area and become veterans in our area. We have two VA hospitals within driving distance of my home. And I was very concerned about the fact that we labeled our returning veterans as possible recruiting persons for terrorism in this country in this report that I have right here with me.
And I understand that you've said that you've apologized to the soldiers and to the military, and I understand that, but I'd just like your view on this and how it was accumulated and what reason it is that it hasn't been withdrawn and better clarified?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Well, Congressman, you're right. Some things in my initial days have gone very well at the department, some things have not. And that was probably the worst thing. I've apologized for that report. It was not authorized to be distributed. It had not even completed its vetting process within the department. It has been taken off of the intel websites and the lexicon that went along with it was similarly withdrawn. Neither were authorized products and we have now put in place processes. And it turned out there were really no procedures to govern what went out and what didn't before and now there are. And so I do not want to see a replication of that.
I also met with the leadership of the American Legion. They were offended by the report. I understood that. We had a very good conversation and we're going to work with them. For example, we are going to be providing, as you can see from the department's history and where we're heading this next fiscal year, we're still in hiring mode. We will be participating in the job fairs that the veterans are hosting to recruit among that veteran population. That's a great, great source of work force for us. Indeed, I think over 25 percent of the department -- that's probably a lowball number, irrespective of the Coast Guard aside -- are military veterans. So that's a huge population for us.
With that, however, one of the things we do need to do on the intel side -- and let me, if I might, share with you where I think we need to head. Setting aside that mistake, where we need to head is the Department of Homeland Security is in a unique role. There is no other department of the federal government that has as part of why it was created to share information with state and local law enforcement that they can use. Most intel that you pay for, that you appropriate money for, is shared around Washington, D.C. It's shared around federal agencies. But there's really very little that goes back and forth with state and local, and that's the partnership that I talked about in my opening comments.
Now, if we're going to do that we have to turn out a quality product and we have to turn out something that is useful to state and local. And that is the improvement process that we are embarking upon now. I look forward to the confirmation of an undersecretary for I&A. We do not have one yet, but a nominee has been named by the president and others, and really being that part of value added to our whole nation's network for homeland security.
REP. CARTER: Well, as part of that question, clarification, I guess, I've worked with state and local police for 20 years and I can assure you we've got some of the best, the smartest and most effective police forces in Texas of anybody around, but, in turn, this report has been received by those people and if nothing has been -- you're right, things are heard around Washington, but if it doesn't get out of Washington, then, as far as they're concerned, this report is still valid and a high priority there. That's why I asked, did you send them something? These people all over the United States that received this thing about our veterans and about our people who believe in the Second Amendment and about the people who were opposed to abortion and so forth -- have you sent something out to these law enforcement officers so they're not targeting these individuals as they look for terrorists?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Thank you, Congressman.
First of all, the report was not designed for targeting purposes. It was designed for situational awareness. Secondly, the report is off of the DHS intel websites and all of its websites. And third, it will be and it is in the process of being replaced or redone in a much more useful and much more precise fashion.
REP. CARTER: But it went out to them in a written form. Has it been withdrawn in written form? If it went out in electronic form, has it been withdrawn in electronic form? Because not everybody looks at websites.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Well, I believe that is how that information is distributed.
REP. CARTER: Only on the website?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: That is my understanding. I'll double-check.
REP. CARTER: Okay. That's fine.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: And it is not there any more.
REP. CARTER: Very good. Very good.
REP. PRICE: Thank you.
REP. LUCILLE ROYBAL-ALLARD (D-CA): Okay, thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And thank you to the members on my side for allowing me to go first since I have to leave right away.
Secretary Napolitano, I've been deeply concerned by reports from NGOs that unaccompanied children apprehended at the border are sometimes being held for extended periods of time, sometimes as long as five days at border patrol stations. This is based on a report from the Women's Commission, which has also been confirmed by your own department and your agency Border Patrol, as well as ICE, which are two of the agencies that have responsibility for these children. The third is the Office of Refugee Settlement. And I have heard that these delays occur in large part because the ORR lacks the resources to promptly accept these children. Concerns have also been raised as to whether ICE is the right agency to facilitate the transfer of these children.
Have you had the opportunity to look at the current structure for the handling of unaccompanied children and do you believe that ORR, not ICE, should have the responsibility for the transfer and placement of these unaccompanied children, given the problems that we have seen?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Representative, I would say yes and no.
Yes, we have begun looking at a whole host of issues involving detention policies and practices of ICE. We have elevated the detention office within ICE to -- it was at the bottom of the ORR chart to an office that reports directly to the head of ICE, who hopefully will be confirmed in the next week or two -- his name is pending before the Senate now -- but also to look at issues -- unaccompanied juveniles, health care standards within our ICE detention facilities. There are a whole host of things that have caused public concern. So that is one among several. We are looking at it. And we will be happy to provide you with information as that examination goes forward.
With respect to ORR versus ICE, as to which is the appropriate body, I have not yet made a determination. This is a very difficult issue and in states along the border, there are a lot of children, unfortunately, that are picked up who are unaccompanied minors. And sometimes they are held simply while someone at the consulate or somewhere else asks that they be held, or they are held there why they try to locate parents or somebody in Mexico or Central America where they could safely be returned. And so sometimes that takes more than a day or two or three, although I don't think it's often an extended stay, nor should it be.
So I have not yet made the determination whether ICE is doing the best job or whether ORR is a better place for that, but I do know it's one of a cluster of detention issues that we are looking at.
REP. ROYBAL-ALLARD: Okay. And are you also looking at alternatives to detention for those that pose no threat to their community and the elderly and the sick? It is a much cheaper way of monitoring these people and I believe that ICE spent close to $2 billion to house approximately 400,000 detainees.
And it's very expensive and it is a proven method to be able to monitor through supervision and other monitoring programs a lot of these people that are very vulnerable, as I said, such as the elderly and those who are ill.
So I was just wondering if you are also looking at those alternatives, not only to reduce costs but also because it's a more humane way of housing these vulnerable populations.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Representative, we are.
I must say, however, that my initial blush review of alternatives to detention was not a very encouraging one. It was not actually all that cheaper than actual detention. And the disappearance -- the rate of people not coming back for their visits or whatever was not acceptable. So whatever we were doing in that mode either had to be strengthened and funded appropriately or we needed to continue with a detention model. So we are looking at it, but I just wanted to share with you -- the purpose of detention is to hold somebody for deportation and the detainee knows that too and so there are some issues there that we need to address from the enforcement perspective.
REP. ROYBAL-ALLARD: Such as tracking bracelets and other things that might be able to --
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Tracking bracelets -- again, they are not cheap. That's the problem.
REP. ROYBAL-ALLARD: Okay. I'd like to work with you on that particular area.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Very well.
REP. ROYBAL-ALLARD: Thank you.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Thank you.
REP. PRICE: Madame Secretary, before we turn to Mr. Calvert, just to pick up on Ms. Roybal-Allard's line of questioning here, this is not the first time this committee has dealt with this. And as you probably know, the report for this year's bill asks that your department, within 90 days, provide a briefing on this matter to our staff. And so that has not occurred, so we know you have this under advisement. It is something we have a continuing interest in resolving, particularly this ICE/ORR trade-off and where the responsibility should lie.
REP. KEN CALVERT (R-CA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And thank you, Secretary Napolitano, for attending today.
In anticipation of this hearing, I reached out to the folks back home and their concerns about our homeland security. I received an overwhelming response and found the majority of the people had three major concerns. First is the lack of control over the Southern border. Second was the frustration with the fellow government for its inability to stem illegal immigration and drug flows. And the last anger and disappointment as an individual, similar to Judge Carter, I have three military installations in my district, about this ill- advised report on right-wing extremism. But what I want to get into, though, is the primary sentiment on illegal immigration.
First, I'd like to thank you for your public support of E- Verify. As you may know, I created the program back in 1996 and I commend the administration for funding the E-Verify program at ($)112 million for FY 2010.
However, I have a question about the three-year reauthorization request. E-Verify, as you know, is successful. It's highly adaptive. Obviously, it's mandatory in your home state of Arizona. As you know, last Congress the House passed the bipartisan five-year authorization of E-Verify 407 to 2. Why did you limit it to three years? Would you support a permanent reauthorization of this program?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Thank you, Representative.
I'm a big supporter of E-Verify, so thank you for what you did in 1996. I believe it has to be an integral part of our employer enforcement moving forward, because you have to give employers, particularly smaller ones, a relatively accessible, easy-to-use method of verifying lawful presence for purposes of employment.
As governor, I issued an executive order requiring the use of E- Verify throughout the government, so I know how it works, because we were one of the largest employers and we were hiring people all the time, and so I knew that some of the issues raised with E-Verify, in truth, didn't pan out. I also signed the law that was the strongest, and I think remains the strongest, employer sanctions law in the country, which drives employers to using E-Verify, and, indeed, I think the last report I saw was that about 26 percent of the employers who are on E-Verify now come from Arizona. So I know if the law works in the right way, you get the right result.
With respect to the three-year authorization, you know, I leave that for Congress's wisdom. I would like certainly more than one year, and I certainly would like the expectation that this is going to be an ongoing and integral part of our enforcement network.
REP. CALVERT: Thank you.
Regarding E-Verify, federal contractors -- as you know, the federal order has been postponed twice. It's now scheduled to go into effect on June 30th of this year. Do you support the ruling requiring federal contractors who want to use the system, similar to what you decided in Arizona, or do you see any further delays of putting in this rule?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Representative, I think my record speaks for itself on this in terms of my support on how E-Verify ought to be used.
With respect to the postponement, I think that has mostly been a logistical one -- in other words, to make sure that the system was robust enough, accessible enough and so forth so that the actual application of stimulus monies didn't get slowed down waiting for E- Verify to catch up.
REP. CALVERT: Well, we had testimony here from the people who work for you that operate that system and they said they're ready to go.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: We're ready to go.
REP. CALVERT: You're ready to go.
I don't know if I have time, and this is a series of questions -- I want to get into this problem we have south of the border on these drug wars going on down there and how that affects our security and our border. And maybe in what remaining time we have, what are you doing right now to help secure that border and the drug flows that are coming across?
I know part of that defense is air interdiction. I also represent March Air Force Base, where AMOC is located, which operates the perimeter defense, air defense of the United States. And they're doing a marvelous job of attempting to stop the high number of aircraft coming into the United States with these illegal substances, but the folks that are involved in that, using new technologies all the time, lower-flying UAV aircraft, other types of endeavors in which to get these drugs over. So what are you doing to support those activities to help stop these drug flows?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Well, innumerable things, Congressman, from moving manpower down to the border, adding dog teams to the border who are cross-trained to sniff out drugs, but also, we have dog teams trained to sniff guns and bulk cash; to adding to our border liaison officers -- those are the ones that deal directly with their counterparts on the Mexican side of the border; to adding more technical and technological capacity; to adding more ICE attaches within the interior of Mexico to feed intelligence back up to us about what is going on. There's a whole menu of things that we are doing.
REP. CARTER: One of the things I want to touch on is methamphetamine. It used to be these labs were scattered all around the rural areas in Arizona and California. Now most meth comes in from Mexico. About 90-plus percent of methamphetamine comes in from Mexico from these superlabs that are located there and it's a horrific, horrific drug. It is literally poison.
And the system in Mexico to get precursors into Mexico from China and India -- are you involved in that, to try to work with the Mexican government? And I give President Calderon full credit on trying to stop this, to help stop these precursors coming in. So I just wanted to bring that up also.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Yes, I can say yes, we do have that and we are working with that, primarily through CBP.
REP. CARTER: Thank you.
REP. PRICE: Thank you.
REP. CIRO RODRIGUEZ (D-TX): Thank you.
Welcome, Madame Secretary.
I represent a district that has 785 miles on the border. I have three major sectors there of the Border Patrol. I have over 17 border stations and seven ports of entry. So I do represent more than anyone else on the border, on the Southern border and the Northern border.
So I wanted to kind of touch base with you on a piece of legislation, 1448, that we've pushed forward that includes efforts there on -- that the administration and President Obama has already indicated that are priority for him: Project Gunrunner -- you know the best teams at ICE -- and Operation Stonegarden.
The chairman has also taken a major lead on Stonegarden project, which had been dormant, and the chairman made sure that we got it activated, although it has a lot of, you know, problems, because it's got -- the local have to go through the state and then, you know -- and so, I wanted to ask you -- and I don't know if you've given it any thought -- but would you support or consider moving Operation Stonegarden as a stand-alone direct grant similar to assistance to firefighters?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Congressman, let me look at that, if I might. What we have been doing over the past two months as we have intensified our efforts on the Southwest border is holding regular conference calls with the local police and sheriffs who occupy -- are doing the front-line law enforcement down there. And it was in partial response to their request that we freed up the guidance on Stonegarden so they could use it for other things. And we brought forward some previously unallocated funds, around ($)59 million, that's really accessible and designed for them. They have -- and I occasionally participate myself in those conference calls.
They have not mentioned to us the need to apply directly, and it surprises me that they're not -- or do not believe that they are able to do so. I believe they can already. So I will need to go back and double check.
REP. RODRIGUEZ: Thank you.
And then I also wanted to kind of touch base with you on this: As Congressman Carter had mentioned earlier, the administration -- at the very beginning after 9/11 there was some -- where groups would come together, whether it would be Jewish, Christian, Muslim groups in the community, in terms of getting better understanding of each other -- if there's any efforts at this point in time going on in that area?
And I would encourage that kind of activity to occur in communities throughout this country as a proactive method of reaching out. And I know that there were some that were conducted, some that just came automatically, to bridge the gap and have a better understanding between communities. And that could also include between people that might feel one way or another on abortion, as well as veterans and others and those that feel -- you know, those that might be identified as gun lovers, whichever. But I know that that initially was occurring, and I was wondering if that's also part of your agenda. And I would encourage you to kind of look at that if you cannot respond at this present time.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Congressman, we have within our civil rights and civil liberties section an outreach effort into several communities; one that I think I can mention here is outreach effort to the Somali communities around the United States.
I do not know that we actually convene multi-interest groups in the way that you describe. But I think we clearly understand that there is an outreach component to the security work that we do that is very important.
REP. RODRIGUEZ: Because I think that would be a much more -- or proactive in working with communities and helping out from a homeland security perspective.
Let me also quickly follow up. Since I have a lot of rural -- on the border -- rural Texas, one of the biggest difficulties that we have -- and your budget includes funding for deferred maintenance of existing employee housing. But do you think there's a need for building additional units and working, you know, for the area of our communities, for public service, private sector -- housing for our workers?
That's one of the biggest problems that they have when we locate them out there in West Texas.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Thank you, Congressman. It depends on where you are on the border. But particularly in some of the areas of the border where we have greatly staffed up very quickly, you really don't have the housing stock there for the employees. And so that means they're having to commute really long distances to get to the border station to go to work. So in certain areas, yes, we are working with local housing authorities, public-private partnerships, the whole kind of menu of different options to try to make housing more uniformly available to our own work force at the border.
REP. RODRIGUEZ: It's a very serious problem, and I would hope that you can look at that and see how -- what we can make happen for some of those employees.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Greed.
REP. PRICE: Thank you.
Before we turn to Mr. Kirk -- just following up for a moment on Mr. Rodriguez's line of questioning -- this, too, is a matter that is not new before this subcommittee. And in fact, the report accompanying this year's bill indicates that these grants are made directly. These Operation Stonegarden grants are made directly to (travel ?) governments, units of local government, including towns, cities and counties along land borders of the United States, the purpose being, of course, to enhance the coordination between local and federal law enforcement agencies. I'm quoting here from our report.
"The report further directs that only CBP and FEMA are to make these Operation Stonegarden grant decisions." And specifically, it says that "no administrative costs are to be deducted from Operation Stonegarden award totals by the states."
So I do think we've dealt with this, or we thought we had, so to the extent it needs to be revisited, maybe you can clarify if some problem has developed.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Mr. Chair, that's why I was somewhat surprised at the question, because my understanding was these were direct-funded to local entities, not just through the -- that the state was no longer needed as the intermediary. But I will make sure -- like, I think that's the way it is. I will actually bet you $5 that's the way it is. But we'll just double check anyway.
REP. PRICE: All right, good.
REP. MARK KIRK (R-IL): Thank you.
I just wanted to commend my colleague Mr. Rodriguez, who's just -- and it's an outstanding bill that you've got. I've signed on, and I really think you've done a very good piece of work on that legislation. Hope we get that through.
I want to ask a couple of quick questions. One, this report -- this extremist report, your staff said the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist group and lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks. And you've apologized to that directly and said you took it off your website. Let me just ask specifically, who in the extremism and radicalization branch of the Homeland Environment Threat Analysis division have you fired for this report?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Mr. Representative, as you know, I cannot discuss personnel matters with you and -- nor would it be appropriate to do that in a public committee setting.
But I can say this: The report was begun many months ago. It was part of a series of reports on a whole variety of things that are occurring within the United States. The fact of the matter is, as was correctly noted by the Veterans of Foreign Wars when they read the report, the report was not an accusation. It was an assessment of who some right-wing groups target. And I don't even want to use the word right-wing groups --
REP. KIRK: Well --
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Let me finish my answer, please.
REP. KIRK: Let me interrupt you. The president just fired our commander in Afghanistan --
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Right.
REP. KIRK: -- a way more important person than who works for you. And you can't tell us that you've taken any action whatsoever?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: I can tell you that personnel actions are being taken, but I can also share with you that it's not appropriate for me to talk with you -- today in committee, and that's all I think I should be saying. These are career civil servants. Most of them have worked at the department since 9/11. And they are not --
REP. KIRK: Would you say that the president took inappropriate action in firing a career military officer in public?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: First of all, Representative, I'm saying that personnel action -- appropriate personnel action has and will be taken in compliance with our nation's civil service laws. These are civil servants.
Now, with respect to the report, on the veterans' issue, there was no intent to accuse our veterans of being un-American. What there was was an understanding that veterans are sometimes targeted for recruitment. That is an assessment. The Department of Defense, indeed, gives instruction to its own commanders at its own military bases about the same phenomenon. In fact, some of that was the basis for the report. We've made all those sources available to the committee.
REP. KIRK: Would you -- now we have -- in the one-tenth of 1 percent of cuts that the president made, we cut criminal grants assistance to incarcerate criminal aliens, but we are funding $15 million for cybersecurity efforts to help tribal governments. Describe the specific tribal security cyberthreat that you have seen.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Mr. Congressman, what that is related to is to make sure that there are tribes throughout the United States that have infrastructure, just as there are towns and other entities. And what we are trying to do is make sure that everybody has access -- just as we work with some in the private sector, some in the local sector -- our domain within the cyber world is the protection of the dot-gov sites and the protection of the work with the private sector on their sites.
REP. KIRK: But you would agree that funding should be threat- driven?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Funding is risk-driven.
REP. KIRK: Risk-driven.
So what is -- based on the threats you've seen and the risks, have you seen any specific cyberthreat report related to a tribal government?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: I have not seen a specific cyber report. However, I can share with you that the monies that ultimately will be given out will be based on a threat and risk assessment.
REP. KIRK: How would you -- since your report on cybersecurity hasn't come up, can you give us a quick understanding, from your viewpoint, on what the specific areas of responsibility are for NSA, DHS and DOD? From 100,000 feet, how do you see a lack of duplication of these three agencies?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: As you know, Congressman, the president has that very topic under review. I think as you can also appreciate, it's an ever-changing threat environment in the cyberworld and one to which we are paying particular attention.
REP. KIRK: I'm not asking for his opinion. I'm asking for your opinion.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Congressman, I think we are participating in that review. I believe the president will be making announcements there shortly. However, I think it is fair to say that where DHS's role is preeminent is in the dot-gov realm and the interaction with the private sector realm.
REP. KIRK: Thank you.
REP. PRICE: Thank you.
REP. NITA M. LOWEY (D-NY): Thank you.
Madame Secretary, welcome. I do want to say we're very fortunate to have a person of your caliber, conviction and intelligence in this position, and we thank you.
And before I ask a question, I just wanted to mention a couple of issue, because our time is limited, that I look forward to working with you on.
First of all: bolstering aviation security. TSA employees should be given collective bargaining rights, and I've been working on this issue and I hope we can be successful. Number two: improved emergency communications for our first responders, more focused urban area grants to cities that are truly high risk, improved cybersecurity for critical infrastructure, decreased border violence and the identification and removal of dangerous criminal aliens which my chair has focused on before.
I want to ask you a brief question about an issue that I think is urgent, having just returned a couple of months ago, leading a congressional delegation to Mexico. The ATF estimates that 90 percent of firearms recovered in Mexico come from dealers in the United States and many of the 6,600 licensed U.S. gun dealers, licensed U.S. gun dealers, along the Southern border operate out of their houses and sell assault weapons that fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. In one case that was recently dismissed, a gun shop owner had sold hundreds of AK-47 rifles to smugglers.
Maybe you can share with us, do you think the availability of assault rifles from the United States, which are illegal in Mexico, increase border violence?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Congresswoman, I think what we are trying to do on the gun issue going south is to do a more robust job of actually intercepting and interdicting them, and also working with Mexico so that we get real-time exchange of information about the guns that are seized that have been used in the commission of a crime so that appropriate tracing can be done for purposes of pattern analysis and possible prosecution under our gun laws now. So, to the extent the budget has additional resources from our department for those efforts, that's how they are tailored.
REP. LOWEY: I'll move on to another subject.
Your FY '10 budget proposal does not request any funding for securing the cities, a federal and local effort to prevent illicit radiological and nuclear material from being detonated in Manhattan, and for the past two years the program has been funded at $30 million, which is less than one-hundredth of 1 percent of the budget, for a program that seeks to eliminate the catastrophic attack scenario.
Given that President Obama has called the threat of nuclear terrorism, quote, "the most immediate and extreme threat to global security," why is this program not funded in this request?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: The answer is "severalfold." Securing the Cities was a pilot program involving New York, New Jersey, that area on the nuclear threat as you correctly describe. It was designed to be a three-year pilot. There is money in the pipeline that will pay for the three-year pilot. And New York hasn't yet submitted its application for the FY '09 funds. Therefore, it was our view that new money into the program for the pilot wasn't necessary and we want to see how the pilot actually works. If the states involved such as New York want to use other Homeland Security grant money to take it forward for years four, five and six, beyond the pilot, those grants can be requested through those other grant programs. So that was the thinking.
REP. LOWEY: Thank you. So you agree that it's an important program, and, pending evaluation, you'll make that decision as to whether additional money should be invested in the future?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: I agree it's an important program. I agree that the nuclear issue always will be an important one for us. The question will be, and it will partly be for this committee and others in the Congress, should the pilot be continued under the Securing the Cities issue or should it be, as this budget designs it, shifted over then to the regular grant programs once you're through the pilot phase and have used those funds up?
REP. LOWEY: Do I have additional -- I don't know, I don't see a red light on, so I'll ask one more question.
Last month -- (laughs) --
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Go for it.
REP. PRICE: You better make it quick if you have a parting question.
REP. LOWEY: Okay. Let me just say, President Obama has publicly supported granting all TSA employees collective bargaining rights, whistleblowers' right, veterans' preference and other common workplace protections enjoyed by other DHS employees. When you testified before the authorizing committee early this year, you told Chairman Thompson you were discussing the issue of TSO (sic) collective bargaining with general counsel. Do you have an update, briefly?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Other than to say it is still under review, what's really -- I will say, Representative, the major issue we're waiting for now is for the president actually to nominate a new head of TSA, because you really want, if you're going to be moving down that path, to have your TSA head in place. And that nomination has not yet been made.
REP. LOWEY: Well, Mr. Chairman, I just want to say in closing on that issue, it seems that there's tremendous turnover, dissatisfaction, disgruntled employees, and if this is the first line of defense at the airports, it doesn't make sense to me they shouldn't be treated like all other federal employees and have collective bargaining rights. We want them to stay in that position for a lengthy period of time so they can get the expertise and be professional in their work. So I would hope that decisions would be made shortly concerning that issue.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Thank you.
If I might add, one of the things I think we also, in addition to looking at that -- we need to be looking at for TSA, which we are also looking at, is a real career path for those employees, so that, you know, if you come in as a front-line screener that there's a way to move up the chain, there's a way to make it a real career with value added in training and "supervisorial" responsibility and the like. And I think in part because it's a relatively new agency, you really don't have that kind of defined career path. And we want to design one for those employees.
REP. LOWEY: Thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. PRICE: Thank you.
REP. STEVEN R. ROTHMAN (D-NJ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Madame Secretary, great pleasure to have you here with us.
The FBI has called a two-mile stretch in northern New Jersey, which links my district to the Port of Elizabeth, the most dangerous two miles in the United States when it comes to terrorism. The screening of all cargo at Port Elizabeth is an important security concern for my constituents in the entire region, and I'm glad to see that you have prioritized container security and maritime security in general in the fiscal year 2010 budget request.
However, the other challenge that we face in that two-mile stretch has to do with chemical plant facilities. New Jersey's chemical plants are known al Qaeda targets. Will the securing of those -- further securing of those chemical plant facilities be a priority of your department? And, in particular, there was language enacted in 2008 which said that the states could have their own regulations with regards to securing chemical plant facilities unless there was a conflict with the federal requirements. Might it be time to revisit that language to allow each state to have its own chemical plant security regulations even stricter than a national minimum standard, even if they conflict?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Congressman, two things: One is we are actively engaged now on the issue of securing of chemical facilities through the regulation -- design and implementation of the regulations known as CFATs. And that has been a huge initiative undertaken by the department over the last years -- inordinately more complex and complicated than one would think at the outset.
But you're exactly right to point to that, in places such as in your own district, about its potential danger to the homeland. So it is a key concern of ours and something that is ongoing. And we're working very heavily with the private sector on that, as you might imagine.
With respect to the kind of reverse preemption argument, they can go stricter but not looser than federal requirements. I must say that's the first time that has been suggested to me, and I'd be happy to take a look at that.
REP. ROTHMAN: Thank you for that, and look forward to that and engaging you in that discussion, or members of your department.
Also, Madame Secretary, I appreciate your focus on improving coordination and communication between the different arms of your agency, especially in light of the difficulties DHS has encountered prior to your appearance as secretary -- being sworn in as secretary.
With respect to the Transportation Security Grant Program, which this subcommittee has held two hearings on earlier: Are you familiar with this program and the inability -- or the apparent inability of grantees under the Transportation Security Grant Program to draw down funds in a timely fashion?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: I'd have to look into that. I know that has been a problem with some of our grant programs. I also know that this budget eliminates some of these grant programs under the theory that they were not risk-based enough to really justify going forward.
REP. ROTHMAN: Right. These have to do, of course, with the New York and New Jersey metropolitan area.
And that comes to my third question, which has to do with your risk assessment -- the request for funding for additional risk assessment capabilities.
And by the way, I hope that you will personally take a further look at the Transportation Security Grant Program.
We had the second of our two subcommittee hearings was more productive than the first and gave us a better sense that -- or sense that progress was being made and appropriate attention was being focused. But if you as secretary could take a look at that --
REP. PRICE: This involved the rail and transit grants and the problematic nexus, it would seem, between TSA and FEMA and releasing those funds.
REP. ROTHMAN: It seemed that progress was being made, but if you could take a personal look at that, that'd be great.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: I'd be happy to do that.
REP. ROTHMAN: Finally, the question -- I was very delighted to see that in the last several years risk assessment -- threat or risk assessment was going to be the key -- were going to be the key criteria upon which the allocation of homeland security funds was going to be determined, as opposed to simply dividing up a big pie across the country in regions that didn't share the same level of threat or risk as others.
But now that we have a more risk-based allocation of funds, there's been an allocation -- you request $5 million for this Strategic Requirements Planning Process to judge these risks in order of priority -- $5 million. Do you think that that's sufficient to get the job done?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Representative, yes, I do. I think that given where we are and where we're going, that's a very well-based budget request.
REP. ROTHMAN: And sufficient?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Yes.
REP. ROTHMAN: Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. PRICE: Mr. Farr.
REP. SAM FARR (D-CA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Madame Secretary, I want to say how pleased I am that you have taken this responsibility, this job. I think it's really refreshing to have a governor come to Washington and essentially have experience on the ground with how things really operate.
I find, having come out of local government and state government, after being here this many years, I'm really glad that the Washington Monument isn't round, because if it was we would have a monument to stovepipes, which is what -- so much goes on.
What I think is remarkable about your agency is essentially the concept of interoperability. And I think we've made it, in the agency, interoperable -- still some struggles. But as a lot of your issues and testimony have touched upon, there's these -- around the edges -- it's our other federal agencies that are not interoperable with Homeland Security. And I have about probably five or six questions. I'll get to as many as I can.
One is, in their comments -- and I'd just like you to reflect -- I've been through seven presidentially declared disasters. And it was very interesting -- the earthquake Loma Prieta in 1989 knocked out everything -- knocked out all the power, knocked out roads; everybody was stuck. We had Fort Ord at that time, and the military could respond to the moment it was declared a federal disaster. Then the military couldn't -- they had to drop everything. So all the generators that they turned on, they couldn't be used.
And I know that the governors have indicated that they're not keen on using, or allowing this sort of the presence of the reserve system, because they're under federal DOD command, whereas the National Guard's under governor. But the reserve system in America has -- the DOD has all the equipment. And I wondered if you can work with sort of making these more -- the ability to use the assets of the military for emergency response whenever it -- you know, whenever it calls for it.
And I know that governors have indicated they don't want that, because they want to maintain control. And it seems to me that we're at a cross there. We have -- the governors want everything they can at the moment the disaster occurs and -- but they don't want -- they want to have control of it. You're not going to give the Army Reserves to the -- or the other -- Air Force Reserves -- to the governors. And I hope maybe you could look at seeing how we could make that more interoperable.
The other issue that I want to bring up to you is that I represent the city of Salinas. City of Salinas has -- it's 150,000. It's essentially responsible for breaking the back of international terrorism through the cartels by big gangs called the Nortenos and Sortenos (sic/Surenos). There's the largest state prison there. The town just does not have the resources. And what they're asking for -- we've gotten other federal help, and we've brought them all together in a whole -- it takes a village to solve this problem. But now they want the intel issues that you've mentioned earlier and would really -- pursuing a model fusion center. And the way it can be drawn is that the Center for Homeland Security training or teaching -- master's degrees and Ph.D.s at the Naval Postgraduate School.
And I wondered if we could work with your agency whether we could bring ability in this community to get an intel fusion center. We've already got the FBI gun checking lab there, but there still lacks a lot of other information that they need.
Could you respond to that?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Yes. First, with respect to your first point, having been a governor longer than I have been a secretary I can understand the notion that governors want to have equipment available a their immediate command when a disaster strikes because of the need to avoid unnecessary delay.
That being said, I think we're working very closely now with governors on a whole host of response issues. And so, hopefully that battle rhythm, as it were, is going much more smoothly.
With respect to a fusion center in the Salinas area that would be particularly geared toward intelligence gathering with respect to the quite sizable gang prison population in that part of California, that is something we could certainly look at.
REP. FARR: Thank you very much.
Southwest border -- what's really struck me in our earlier conversations and having visited the border and being -- going with the president to the summit, when we went to Mexico City and met with all of our federal FBI -- all the federal agencies -- one thing they indicated -- that the law only allows AFT to go in and do the gun store, gun sales for federally licensed, federally authorized gun shops. But the law says you can only do those once a year.
They want that authority moved to ICE, because you have all the officers on the border where AFT doesn't have very many. And they want that authority to be able to check more than once a year lifted. And I wondered if -- you know -- that's, again, AFT is in the Treasury and you have all the other responsibilities under your bailiwick. And could we -- that seems to be a huge problem on -- is the transferring of -- buying of weapons along the border and transferring illegally into Mexico.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is an agency that we work very closely with.
I've been -- we are working very closely with the attorney general on how we harmonize the joint responsibilities of ICE, DEA, ATF, because when you referred earlier to stovepipes, the memoranda -- the original memoranda really think of them as not having any kind of concurrent or overlapping work, when in fact they do, particularly at the border. And I think we're very close to breaking through that in a formalized agreement.
REP. FARR: Well, if you need more authority, could you let this committee know?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: We'll do it.
REP. PRICE: Thank you.
REP. C.A. "DUTCH" RUPPERSBERGER (D-MD): I think you're very well qualified for this. I think Homeland Security has had a lot of issues and a lot of bad judgment, a lot of calls, a lot of money that's been spent that really shouldn't be where it goes. But the fact that you were a prosecutor, the fact that you were governor, in management and know local and state government and now where you are, I think it's a good fit. So we're looking forward to working with you.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Thank you.
REP. RUPPERSBERGER: We're going to have two rounds of questioning, and I've got three issues I want to raise, so I might not get it all done the first round. And where my three areas would be are going to be in port security, and I want to talk to you about the nuclear components of -- in cargo containers being smuggled in. I want to get into the cyber issue. And then, finally, I want to get into the Coast Guard, about their resources in -- especially in Central and South America, as it relates to their resources.
As far as the first one, the nuclear components in cargo containers, I represent the port of Baltimore, and I'm co-chair of the National Prot Security Caucus, so I've done a fair amount in the port area. And you know, I understand -- I mean, your budget zeroed out the -- it was -- I think it was zeroing out any type of money for technology and detecting the nuclear components. I think one of the areas was cranes, where we, you know -- and in port security you have to make sure that you balance security with the commerce. I think we learned that when there was, I think, on the East -- on the West Coast with about 17 ports, and I think it was a billion dollars a day that it cost us.
But the -- are you familiar with the DNDO?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Yes.
REP. RUPPERSBERGER: Okay. And to my knowledge the DNDO -- we -- they were appropriated close to $15 million in FY '09 to further develop an on-dock rail application, namely a crane-mounted and straddle carrier detection system. And the crane-mounted system, which scans cargo containers as they're being unloaded, it seems to me, is the way to go to balance out the commerce end versus security. And if you -- and it would not slow down operations.
But the DNDO has some remaining money in their -- they just haven't spent it. And you know, I'm concerned that we need -- we have a goal of scanning over 100 percent of incoming containers at foreign ports. And I really doubt, based on what I know, that that's going to be a reality.
And just because you scan them doesn't mean you're getting what you need to get. I think you look at ports like Hong Kong, where they say they scan every container, but I -- they're not -- they're going to miss a lot. It's about technology and getting the right system in place.
Now, as far as your goal, how do you -- how will you address -- do you think we'll be able to meet the 100 percent? And secondly, the technology of trying to make sure that we can detect these nuclear components in cargo containers, because that's probably our biggest threat: components of a nuclear bomb coming into our country.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Congressman, let me, if I might --
REP. RUPPERSBERGER: By the way, in your F '10 budget request, the acquisition funding for radiation detection systems was zeroed out.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: That's right.
REP. RUPPERSBERGER: And that's why I'm addressing this.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Fair enough. And if I might address your question in several parts: One is, 100 percent scanning of all cargo from foreign origination by the deadline, I think I said even as early as my confirmation hearings, I thought that that deadline was not reachable, in part because of the logistics of simply negotiating some 700 or so international agreements to allow that sort of process to proceed.
That being said, the budget does include expanding the ports that are doing 100 percent scanning abroad and adds three more of those ports, subtracting Hong Kong, which now has withdrawn from our Secure Freight Initiative.
With respect, however, to scanning or screening at the ports as they come into the domestic U.S. for nuclear, that is virtually 100 percent. So I want to make sure we speak in a differentiated way between what we are doing abroad where the cargo is loaded, to what we are doing as they come into American ports.
With respect to DNDO, yes, it was zeroed out for several reasons. First, there is money still in the pipeline that has not yet been drawn down. And second, the decision that the new-stage technology that I think the Congress was perceiving would be available to buy really has not met our specifications or the expectations that we have. And rather than budget for it, I think we need to keep working with the vendors to get something that really will be working for us long term.
REP. RUPPERSBERGER: If there aren't systems that work now, don't we have to continue to spend money to develop the systems which are going to work?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Yeah, and there is money in the pipeline for that. But we're not going to be buying --
REP. RUPPERSBERGER: Where is that money?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: -- we're not going to be buying new systems right now in FY '10.
That's the money that you're referring to that was zeroed out.
REP. RUPPERSBERGER: All right. Do you have research and development to determine -- there're a lot of inventors out there --
SEC. NAPOLITANO: There is money in S&T, but there also was unspent money in DNDO that can be used for that purpose.
REP. RUPPERSBERGER: And as you said before, there's clearly the issue of -- it's the port of embarkation and getting the intelligence both human and SIGINT -- those different countries. But you have -- I think there are only 70 countries that deliver to our port and -- out of, what, 700 or something, whatever it is -- that really are limited as far as their resources.
So are you working on a plan on the port of embarkation and how we get intelligence in those ports -- to move forward?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Yes.
REP. RUPPERSBERGER: How am I doing on time? Am I up?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: I'll try to answer quickly.
REP. RUPPERSBERGER: I don't know, I can't -- I don't have the time. Am I --
SEC. NAPOLITANO: The answer is yes.
REP. RUPPERSBERGER: What are you doing?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: We are working with the Department of Defense and other entities on the intel gather -- that's how we selected the two -- or the three new ports that we will install the Secure Freight Initiative in this year. But beyond that we have a multilayered, risk-based approach that we're now using for cargo.
I'd be happy to make sure your staff is -- or you are briefed and can see that -- see where we are headed with that part.
REP. RUPPERSBERGER: It's kind of tough in a hearing with five minutes to do this, so we'll --
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Yeah, we'll follow up.
REP. RUPPERSBERGER: -- form a meeting together and follow up.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Happy to do that.
REP. PRICE: And we'll have another round of questions, which I'm going to begin at this very moment.
So, Madame Secretary, let me follow up on your response to my first question, which had to do with the prioritizing of convicted criminal aliens for deportation proceedings.
It was significant, I think, that in giving that answer, you focused on two programs that strive to strengthen the cooperation between ICE and local law enforcement, namely the 287g program and Secure Communities.
So I want to take that a little further. I'm drawing here on some conversations I had recently with five sheriffs from North Carolina who discussed what they thought the best approach was for ICE to work with state and local law enforcement to combat illegal immigration. Specifically, I'd say the sheriffs, to a person, highlighted the good experience they'd had with the Secure Communities program, which they say gives them important information about the criminal histories of the people they arrest -- something that, indisputably, they need to know. Yet, they also stressed that it allows them to maintain good relationships with local immigrant communities, since it leaves to ICE the discretion of which individuals are to be -- which individuals are having detainers put on them and are to be scheduled for deportation -- leaves that discretion with ICE -- does not give local law enforcement a role in that.
Now, the 287g program they had more mixed views of, some very positive, others not so positive. And that perhaps reflects, as I said earlier, the fact that 287g doesn't look the same in each and every community. And I know the department is exploring that as we speak.
The program's been interpreted and implemented quite differently in various communities. But that aside, generally, the 287g program relies on local officials both to investigate the backgrounds of suspected illegal immigrants and to make the determination whether an individual's in the country illegally.
Now, deportation decisions still -- still a great deal of discretion with ICE but more an intermixing of roles, I think you'd agree, with local law enforcement, a less-clear division of labor than we have with Secure Communities.
In any event, 287g requires local officials to receive significant training in federal immigration law at -- that's costly, and it can lead -- has in some instance led to strained relationships between local law enforcement and the immigrant community, since it does put local officials of trying to stop crime while simultaneously being the long arm of ICE, or at least part of the enforcement mechanism with respect to federal immigration laws.
Now, all that by way of asking you, what do you think is the best way forward for ICE to build cooperative working relationships with state and local law enforcement? Do you see significant differences between Secure Communities and the 287g program? Do you see clear advantages to one approach rather than the other?
I think we're going to have to sort this out. And you may not have it totally sorted out yet with respect to your own review. But it does seem to me some of the pros and cons of the two approaches are becoming clear. Certainly they're clear to law enforcement people in my communities. And I wondered what your reflections to this point would indicate.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
You're right, they are different, with some overlap. But they are somewhat different approaches to the same problem, which is how do you identify for deportation criminal aliens and then get them deported? It's not a matter of just of identification, it's a matter removal from the country.
As you correctly note as well, we are looking at 287g. Why? Because it had so many variations across the country and little kind of -- no metrics in terms of was it actually producing a benefit for our immigration enforcement efforts. And so we want to really be looking at that agreement to look at ways to make it more uniform across the country and to put some real metrics on it so it's an accountable program to us.
Secure Communities -- you know, the easiest model is giving local law enforcement access to immigration databases on a computerized way so that they can identify more immediately and clearly who they've got. And to me, that is working. It's working very well. It's very popular. And I can predict that we will be looking to grow that program over this year and the coming years.
REP. PRICE: And the -- could you clarify -- in your budget for 2010 you're proposing a substantial increase in that Secure Communities line, which is ($)200 million --
SEC. NAPOLITANO: That's correct.
REP. PRICE: -- is that right?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: That's correct, because it is effective, it works, and law enforcement knows it.
REP. PRICE: Okay. Thank you. That's helpful. And we'll continue to work on this with you.
Let me shift to the related topic of the Secure Border Initiative and the question of border infrastructure.
On April 21 you told the Board of Trade Alliance, and I'm quote you here, that "You cannot build a fence from Brownsville to San Diego and call that an anti-illegal immigration, anti-illegal drugs strategy." Almost three years into the Secure Border Initiative, SBI's most visible and expensive symbol is the physical fence, as well as thousands of new Border Patrol agents deployed to the border. The cost of that initiative -- this initiative -- over the past three years easily exceeds $4 billion.
Now, at the same time, you've made it clear that you plan to finish the currently planned 670 miles of pedestrian and vehicle fencing. Your budget also includes $110 million, the same level as fiscal '09 for tactical infrastructure. And your budget notes that the Border Patrol operational requirements call for a variety of such infrastructure, including additional pedestrian fence.
However, I understand the department does not intend to build new fence but will focus on maintaining existing infrastructure, further testing and deployment of planned technology investments and Northern border technology programs.
Now, as you may know, I've questioned the last administration's investment priorities in this area. And so, as you can imagine, I'm encouraged by the approach you've articulated.
But I do have some questions about where we turn next. After such massive investments in technology and infrastructure and people, what would you say is your vision for sustainable -- for a sustainable approach to border security? And how do you envision these elements fitting together? Obviously, from your budget, the combination of elements is rather different than what we had in the last administration. Could you describe that a little more -- in a little more detail, though? How would you characterize the combination of elements you're looking to work together and to reinforce each other going forward?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And I'll confine my remarks to the Southern border. We can talk about the Northern border as well, but they're different, in respect to the kind of system we're putting in place. But both require a system.
And to me, the system has several elements. One is adequate, boots-on-the-ground manpower. The second is technology. And for example, we now have just signed off on the first phase of SBInet as being operational and is going onto place in the Tucson sector and will be added to other sectors now along the Southern border. That program, as you know, took a while to get worked out. But it is now being worked out.
So boots on the ground and technology and then infrastructure as part of a system -- so while, for example, on the fence the budget does not necessarily ask for new mile and miles of fence, it does not say that there can never be another portion of fence added on as part of another section of the border, as part of a system we might want to add some more fencing in a certain more place -- in certain more places in a limited way.
But my statement at the Border Trade Alliance is what I've seen and what I've experienced. Just building a fence across several thousand miles of some of the most rugged terrain you will ever see is not, in and of itself, an anti-illegal immigrant or anti-contraband strategy.
The other part that needs to be added to that is interior enforcement. That's why the worksite enforcement has to be part and parcel of our efforts here, because it is the demand or the draw for jobs that really creates the demand for a lot of that illegal immigration over the Southern border.
So unless you marry what you're doing at the border with some interior enforcement, all you've done is create a challenge to sort of run the gauntlet -- and then a home-free system. That's what we need to avoid.
REP. PRICE: And I assume you'd agree, beyond that, that enforcement alone is not a -- whatever the different components, whatever the different aspects -- interior, border enforcement, -- enforcement alone is not a sufficient immigration strategy.
During my first moths as chairman I spent a lot of time down on that Southwest border and have yet to meet a Border Patrol officer, a border agent who would say enforcement alone is the answer to this problem. As long as our overall immigration policy is out of whack, as long as there's this gross disparity between what our labor market demands and what our official policy permits, you know, all the fences in the world aren't going to solve this problem.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Mr. Chair, I think the president has already indicated that he wishes to sometime this year take up the issue of underlying immigration reform. And we'll be fully prepared to help participate in that effort when the time comes.
REP. PRICE: Thank you.
REP. CARTER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
To clarify some stuff we've been talking about -- on the issue of the guns coming across -- I believe the -- what ATF has reported is that of those seized and traced, they're from the United States. But they haven't traced anywhere near the number of guns that they've seized. So we -- there are other places that we should be involved in trying to help our allies in -- across the border find out where the guns come from.
And don't presume that they all come from the United States, because they already have reported that many have come from being imported for law enforcement and then law enforcement turned them to the other side, the Army turning to the other side and so forth. So there's other issues.
On the 287g issue, I believe that there're some good stats out there that are available right now showing that this has been a very effective program.
You mentioned that -- and I wasn't in the room, but I was told of it, that you're formalizing an agreement with ICE, DEA, CBP, ATF and others on counternarcotics and counter weapons smuggling. Could you give us some idea what kind of agreement that is that you're formalizing and kind of where you think it's going?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Certainly, Representative.
With respect to the gun tracing, you are right. That 90 percent number comes from guns actually turned over and traced, which is not the total universe of guns seized. We know that, however, a great proportion of the guns seized come from the U.S. But there are guns that are coming from other sources as well.
One of the things we are working on is a better way of capturing what guns are used in the commission of crimes right then and there so they can be traced quickly, which was not previously the case.
With respect to working with the attorney general, there are a number of old memoranda of understanding, MOUs. Some of them date back to the 1970s -- for example, between the DEA and the old INS -- before ICE even was created -- that divvy up things such as, for example, Title 21 authority. They are stovepipe MOUs. They don't really reflect the modern day that we're dealing with, which is a, you know, a whole region with a whole complex of problems. So there are -- we are engaged, the attorney general and I, in rectifying that situation now.
Senator Grassley, for example, a couple of weeks ago actually wrote me a letter asking me what we were doing -- there was a GAO report on some of these old MOUs, and I was pleased to report to him that we're making good progress there. And we hope to be able to announce something shortly.
REP. CARTER: Well, that's a good plan.
On the issue of this worksite enforcement, two weeks ago Saturday night, I was having barbeque with a Hispanic-American contractor, probably the sharpest in my district -- a big contractor. He's constantly turning over backwards to try to make sure that he's meeting every kind of requirement for his -- so that he's not going to get in trouble.
And he was -- I don't know where he got it or what was said or what he read, but he was really concerned, and expressed it to me, that it looked like all the effort he'd done was going to be for nil, including going through E-Verify and other things, because it looked like that the target of the department was employers, period. And he was really concerned about it.
And he was saying that, you know, if you do everything right, could you still end up being -- having crimes charged against you? And of course, being an old judge I said, of course not. You know there's laws and -- but he's worried about shutting down his business, throwing him in jail, huge fines. When he says he's done everything right, and I believe he has, that's his work ethic that he brings to the job.
So I'm real interested in these things, especially in light of this -- you talk about new elements that are out there; one of them was then leaked. One of the supposedly secure documents was leaked to The New York Times. Are you aware of that? When you were doing some conversations on this new "go after the employers, not the employees," and maybe this is where he got it -- they were law enforcement- sensitive and you labeled them law enforcement-sensitive and -- on the new guidelines and that they were to be kept from the public and not for public release and yet, somebody released them to The New York Times. Do you have any idea about that leak and the source of that leak or were you aware of it?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: No. But I will share with you the guidelines and how they work. With respect to your constituent, if he's doing everything right and he's using E-Verify and he's got a robust I-9 process to check immigration forms, the fact of the matter is the law is very tough to prove a case against the employer. You have to show knowledge and intent to hire illegally and that requirement is not going away.
What the intent of the guidelines, however, was to say look, it is easy to rack up numbers and just go onto a place and pick up the employees. What I want our agents to do, however, is to build cases not just against employees, but if there is an employer who is intentionally and knowingly continuing to delve into that illegal labor market that we have a shot at bringing a winnable prosecution.
And so it means really thinking through your evidence -- your warrant strategy, how you're going to handle that, increasing our number of I-9 auditors that can actually go in and do more I-9 audits, which are lower paid employees than actual case agents but help give us some inkling about where our case agents ought to be targeting to help really deal with the whole issue of the work site.
But if your constituent has got a good process and he can show that he routinely uses E-Verify and I-9 and has got that all in place, then the existing federal law will not allow us to bring a prosecution.
REP. CARTER: And that's -- I agree, you build your case before you raid. But I guess the whole point is it is targeted at the employer and not the employees, so even though you may know there's 500 illegal aliens working in a place, if you don't know that he had that -- meets the requisite intent to prove the case, then that wouldn't be a place that you would raid.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Not necessarily. That would not necessarily be this case. We may still serve a warrant and bring in workers and interview -- what did they do? How did they apply? Who did they talk to? What kind of documents did they use? What were they asked? Those sorts of things oftentimes lead to a case that can actually get you to the employer. So these are not mutually exclusive concepts. They are a matter of emphasis, however.
REP. CARTER: Am I through? If I could just -- well, I'd like to just add one question.
REP. PRICE: No, no. Just go ahead and --
REP. CARTER: The Seattle issue is one that I'm curious about.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Yes, Bellingham.
REP. CARTER: Are we going to do -- is that going to be our policy, that we're going to release the workers back with the -- some kind of permit to let them work?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Let me explain that. First of all, that was not a new policy. That's the way those cases have been done for a long time. Here's what happens: You go onto a worksite, you serve warrants. You want to bring a case against the employer, you need certain other workers to be able to testify. That means they have to be able to stay in the country legally while you're getting ready to court. That also means that they've got to be able to feed themselves while you're waiting to go to court.
And so the practice has been to provide for an extended departure date for them. They're allowed to stay in the country legally for that period of time, while they are cooperating. They're allowed to work during that period of time, while they are cooperating. When the case is over, they are deported.
REP. CARTER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. PRICE: Thank you.
REP. RODRIGUEZ: Thank you very much.
And let me follow up on the gunrunning issue. We got resources for ATF and others to follow up. We've just started that and as indicated by Congressman Carter that we don't have all the information. I even asked President Calderon when he mentioned the 50 caliber if he knew where it came from. He didn't. And so hopefully we'll get some more information as we move forward.
There was some kind of concerns that I started to hear that, for example, a lot of those high-caliber guns are not sold in the gun shows. We know that. So they're coming from somewhere else, some indication possibly from the Contras and the war in Central America. So it would be great, as we move forward, to get that information as to how to best deal with that. So I'm hoping that we can do that.
Secondly, on the issue of cybersecurity, it's an area that I know it's getting even worse throughout and the number of attacks are more serious. And I know that we're -- there's attempts to hit it from a national perspective down. But there's a need also from the local community up and educating people about the importance of getting -- becoming aware.
I know one of the congressmen talked about the tribes. I've got tribes right on the border, the Kickapoo, the Tiwas and the importance of also educating them as to what to look for and things that might be happening. So I'm hoping that we can -- and I was glad that you put some additional resources there in terms of cybersecurity from a local perspective and how we can enhance that.
My concerns are that we have not moved enough into educating also the private sector, the banking, you know, area, the local police for crime and those kind of things. Maybe you might want to react to that.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Congressman, yes. One of, I think, the major efforts that will be under way, is under way now, actually, but will be enlarged upon greatly, is cooperation with key features of our private sector. It's not just the financial infrastructure but the electrical infrastructure, the water infrastructure. All of these things now are subject to hacking or cyber attack; we know that. We don't control it. So we have to work cooperatively at an educational and support role with the private sector on those things.
We have teams now working very aggressively with the private sector. We also have teams known as CERT teams, helping with response and reaction when something does happen. There was a recent virus, the Conficker, you may have heard of it, where we really were playing the lead in terms of getting information to the private and to the other dot-gov sites about what you could do with your own system to protect it.
REP. RODRIGUEZ: If I could just mention, I know we did -- I was on the Armed Services Committee before and we did one of the major exercise Dark Screen prior to 9/11 in San Antonio and this is still some programs there.
I also wanted, if I had the opportunity, to ask you about a problem. I've had serious disasters. The last three years I've had two, one flood in Presidio and -- which was never declared and it's still a major problem. A major tornado in Eagle Pass that killed seven people, took 17 days to declare it. There still seems to be a problem -- I mean, we can look at is as a committee and as an agency -- responding to small communities that sometimes don't reach that so- called level that it has to reach. But when 90,000 acres have been burned in west Texas and they say the only damage was to the fences, we know that that's not the case, because there's a lot of cattle and sheep and goats and other things out there. And so somehow we've got to look at some of those areas.
The flooding that I had in Presidio that also -- I'm not even sure when they submitted those requests that displaced 500 people there, but it went downstream and also displaced at Redford and other communities. And it was never declared by the previous administration.
The flood that occurred -- I mean, the tornado that occurred in Eagle Pass that was not only embarrassing but frustrating in having to deal with those situations when the Mexican side was taken care of and they called my elected official and said, "Do you need any help?" And I couldn't even -- we were not at that point. So I'm hoping that in FEMA that we can come to grips with those kind of issues and respond more appropriately to natural disasters.
And if I could just end it with a comment -- and to also be very cautious during natural disasters, because usually that's the best time to create problems also. Not only -- those are natural disasters, but there's also a way of creating man-made disasters during natural disasters in terms of beefing up in that area. Thank you.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Yes, thank you.
REP. PRICE: Mr. Calvert.
REP. CALVERT: Yes, thank you, Mr. Chairman.
This may be a little bit out of your lane, but I just want to bring this issue up. As the chairman has indicated, a high priority to the chairman and apparently to the administration is the problems with deporting criminal aliens. And as you know, the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program has helped the states incarcerate criminal aliens. It's a small portion of that cost. It's one of the things that, in border states especially, both Republicans and Democrats have really gotten together on as a program worth funding.
I was just curious, when you were governor of Arizona, did you support SCAAP funding?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Yes.
REP. CALVERT: Now, don't you think it's a little inconsistent on the part of the administration on one hand to say that they're wanting us to get more involved in the deportation of these criminal aliens and the second -- not to be involved in their incarceration, even though, as you know in your state, I suspect it was probably, what, 20, 25 percent of your cost, maybe less?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Well, we had a -- in Arizona we had an average daily population of about 34,000 and probably about 4,000 to 4,500 were illegals.
REP. CALVERT: But as far as a portion of your cost to incarcerate someone, criminal alien versus your cost, what did you get back from the federal government versus your cost?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Oh, I think it was about 10 cents on the dollar.
REP. CALVERT: Ten cents on the dollar. So you thought it was a great program while you were governor?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: I recall sending an invoice to the attorney general of the United States for payment and did not receive such. The Congress did not fully appropriate the money. But let me say this, look, SCAAP is, as you know, funded through DOJ. And those budget hearings will take that up, I'm sure. My job, however, is to do whatever I can to release -- to reduce the number of illegals that are coming into the states to begin with and that's why it can provide the greatest assistance to the border states.
REP. CALVERT: At one time they were talking about a program to work with the Mexican government to incarcerate some of these people within their home country and at much less cost. But those program -- that program never went anywhere. I know that a number of governors were talking about that.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Yeah, we looked at that actually in Arizona, Representative. And first of all, there were lots of legal impediments to it, treaty and otherwise. Secondly, there was a great deal of skepticism, myself included, among prosecutors because in the Mexican system oftentimes people can be released before they actually serve their time and we were not confident that people would actually serve their time.
REP. CALVERT: In FY '09, more than 2,500 additional Border Patrol agents were funded. In this FY '10 budget proposal you only add 44 agents. In FY '09, more than 1,300 additional CBP officers were funded. In this FY '10 budget proposal, you add 65. At a time when we have intense drug smuggling activity, growing influence by the Mexican drug cartels, the FY '10 budget proposes to drastically constrain the growth and the work force of the Border Patrol and CBP officers. Do you think that's a wise move?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Yes, and several reasons: One is because the target hiring for Border Patrol has -- as set by the Congress, has been 20,000. So what you saw there was a rapid ramp-up from a force not too long ago that was like 8,500 agents up to the 20,000 mark and now the ability to sustain that over time. You marry that manpower, as I said earlier, in a system with greater use of and funding for technology, interior enforcement and the like and the system makes sense, yes.
REP. CALVERT: So there was a threat or workload analysis done to justify keeping that work force level for the next year?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: That was the recommendation that was carried forward from the previous administration and I accepted it, yes.
REP. CALVERT: Since it's estimated that more than 85 percent of the drugs entering Mexico from South America are transported via non- commercial maritime routes, how can the FY '10 budget justifiably shortchange the Coast Guard's legacy cutter sustainment? I understand you cut it by 18 percent, provide no funding for immediate maintenance needs of the high endurance cutter fleet and cut CBP's air and marine procurement by over 11 percent.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: We'd be happy to give you a greater briefing on the operational side of that, Congressman, but the plain fact of the matter is that the budget provides that the Coast Guard, through different mixes of programs, will be able to sustain all of its current missions in the maritime environment. Right now we're involved in several surge efforts led by the Coast Guard in the maritime environment related to the importation of drugs from South America.
REP. CALVERT: And one point that I want to make as far as the fence is concerned, for those of us in California near San Diego --
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Yeah.
REP. CALVERT: -- it has worked marvelously.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: It has.
REP. CALVERT: And it has cut down crime significantly and now that that area by the Tijuana Gulch is finally completed, I've talked to people in the neighborhoods over there and they are greatly appreciative of that infrastructure being completed.
With that, thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. PRICE: Thank you.
REP. RUPPERSBERGER: Two issues -- I'm going to try to move quick on the first one. It's the issue of the Coast Guard. I think having the Coast Guard in Homeland Security is very helpful. I think they're probably one of the best organizations that I've worked with since I've come to the Hill. I mean, what they did, the admiral and commandant, in Katrina, they just get it. They're well disciplined, they're focused and they're professional. And so I hope as their leader that you understand how good they are.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Absolutely.
REP. RUPPERSBERGER: One of the areas that -- they have so many areas of jurisdiction -- the drug problem in the Central and South America, which is one of our biggest problems as it relates to drugs. And a lot of what we want to do is try to get to the drugs before they get actually on land, especially Mexico.
In that area of water near Guatemala and Mexico, we are really -- the Coast Guard's at a disadvantage because they have an aging fleet. I mean, they're close to 40 years old. Now, there are eight -- I think there are eight ships that are ready to go and -- I don't know where they are in the budget right now, but I would ask you to look at expediting the resources that they have, because I think that the ability to have a helicopter, which is probably one of the most effective methods that they're using now as a deterrent stopping these ships -- it's very difficult to stop these fast ships that are moving all over the place. But with the helicopter, it puts them in a better position.
And if you could just look at your budget and see what we can do or get back to me or -- whatever and see how we can give them more resources, because it's just like port embarkation. If we're aggressively stopping them ahead of time, we might be a lot better off.
They also, I know, are -- in the intelligence arena I think it's important that you look at that and make sure they're well focused, because they're not just dealing with the drug and the United States. They're in all parts of the world now, as you know, dealing with the pirate issue and whatever.
Now let me get to cyber. Cyber initiative is probably one of the most important issues we're going to deal with -- new issues that we're going to deal with. I think the good news is that President Obama understands this. I know during the election that -- both candidates were briefed, along with President Bush and whatever, the DNI, Admiral McConnell, who really raises this as an issue and how we're dealing with cyber defense.
We know we have been compromised on a regular basis -- NASA -- and this has been going on for a while, and the funny thing that the public doesn't understand really, what really this is about. They probably assume that we own the Internet, when we don't. And so there's a big process that's going on now. And I know the process is Melissa Hathaway dealing with the president and her report coming out and then you have General Alexander on the other side.
And my concern is your role. If you look at the history of Homeland Security, we've had some embarrassing moments. As a former prosecutor, you know that there's always an issue between state, federal and local, but the best way to get them all working together is the strike force concept and that works. But I'm really concerned about the jurisdiction of Homeland Security versus maybe where we might have DOD. And I just want to know how you can make sure that we're working together as a team on the different areas of jurisdiction.
I remember in the beginning we had an issue where we were closing tunnels on 95, where the FBI was supposed to be in charge and Homeland Security got involved and New York City police and none of them were working together. And that's just not going to get it now. I mean, we need the leadership at the top to make sure there's not a turf issue, but there's a jurisdiction because the right person is in the right place.
And also, I think it was Admiral Brown, I think, is heading -- is one of the people heading your cybersecurity. The good news there, he's well respected, I know, by General Alexander, and that's good for Homeland Security and what NSA will be looking at.
So how do you, as the manager, feel that you can manage this issue so there's no turf, that everybody's doing what they need to do and then, as the DNI would want us to do, bring everybody together?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Representative, first of all, I've been involved in several meetings and initiatives already as a secretary where we've had multiple agencies who have a piece of cyber there and there has been a unified effort. But beyond that, the product, I believe, of the president's own review will be some decisions made with respect to how out of the White House things will be coordinated across the federal government. And so I think the results of that review are pretty ripe and should be announced shortly.
REP. RUPPERSBERGER: And that's Melissa Hathaway's review?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: That's correct.
REP. RUPPERSBERGER: Okay. I'm on the Intelligence Committee and deal with this right now. And there are areas we can't talk about, but I think -- I mean, that was a broad answer to a long question, but my concern is I really -- if you could focus on how we're not going to be involved in the turf issue, because all that we do and we work on, there are guidelines or standards that need to be set. Are you communicating with General Alexander or is Admiral Brown doing that?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Yes and yes.
REP. RUPPERSBERGER: Okay. Nice, short answers.
REP. PRICE: Thank you.
REP. FARR: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I'm very pleased to see your tough stand on some of these border issues. It was very interesting talking to all of the personnel associated with our embassy in Mexico City when I was with the president and we had a meeting on the border issues. There are U.S. citizens, our law enforcement, DHS and so on looking from that side and really, you know, supportive of the Merida Initiative.
But I think what they also recognize is that for the first time our country has stopped being apologists about the fact that the addiction is on this side of the border, that the money that is being raised to be laundered is on this side of the border and the fact that the 7,000 gun stores that sell guns are on this side of the border, not located in California but located in Texas and your former state and your state.
I think that -- and this is my comment; I don't need a response -- but I think that we're going to get respect around the world when we admit to the fact that some of these problems are caused by us and that we've got to do a better job of taking care of our own house before we start blaming everybody else for the problem.
I'd like to switch -- having said that, I'd like to switch to another issue, which is the Center for Homeland Defense and Security. And I'm pleased that your FY '10 budget recognizes the high value of the Homeland Defense and Security, because it provides our nation first responders and governors and mayors. And I note that your personnel were very active and frequent participants in the CHDS programs.
And I wanted to know how we can have a greater impact on our national security issues using the centers. And, for instance, some of the students in the master's thesis are doing cutting-edge research projects and how can DHS make greater use of such research?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: It's an interesting -- I had not really even thought of it that way, so let me see what they're producing and get back to you.
REP. FARR: Well, what -- the interest there -- and you might even suggest, is that they all have to write master's degrees (sic) and they come there knowing that -- not necessarily knowing what subject matter. And a lot of them, what professors do is give them a list of issues and say these are, you know -- you might, having given some thought, suggest some of those areas where the department could really use that kind of --
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Free labor.
REP. FARR: Free labor, exactly.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Thank you.
REP. FARR: I'm also pleased that the California Homeland Security Consortium is a collaborative between 23 academic institutions, federal, state and local government organizations, private sector firms in the Monterey Bay region dedicated to conducting innovative research, education, field experimentation programs, as well as developing new technologies to improve homeland security.
And I understand that DHS officials recently visited campus to develop and coordinate the next round of research projects, which can flow into these master's degree programs. How can DHS continue to be supportive of this initiative?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Well, I think in part by what we've already done, but also looking for other opportunities. One of the things that we are going to need as a country is an educated cadre of individuals who really have -- know about homeland security, have thought about it. People who are working in our department now aren't going to be there forever, so it's going to be a useful investment for us to be working with our institutions of higher learning on useful curricula and training for the next wave of potential specialists.
REP. FARR: I appreciate that. I think your leadership is going to be key. And I would hope that sometime you can share with Secretary Clinton. We've created within the State Department a whole new center for post-conflict security, stabilization and reconstruction. And the idea is to use the State Department, USAID and then have a federal reserve corps, so to speak, of federal employees and a reserve corps of state and local employees who have the expertise to go overseas to sort of a special ops group.
But in this case, these are civilians who can work with their civilian counterparts and hopefully have linguistic or cultural or area studies that would be useful for -- it seems to me it's the next wave for -- once we develop these folks in our country -- and you know from your own state, the retired judges and sheriffs and others who can speak Spanish, who could -- or other languages who might be just perfect in retirement or thinking about, you know, where their next step is, to link them up with the State Department program. And I think that there is the graduation from Homeland Security at home to international security abroad.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: It's an interesting thought. Let me take a look at that as well.
REP. FARR: Do I have any time left, Mr. Chairman?
REP. PRICE: The gentleman's time has just expired.
REP. FARR: I got one more question.
REP. PRICE: We'll have a very brief third round. I do want to respect the secretary's time. I know you need to leave at 3:30, so we will all be very brief and efficient here in our final third round of questioning, starting with myself.
I want to turn to a question that I suppose comes up every time you have a hearing, so we don't want this to be any different, and that is the question of the status of FEMA within the department. I am on the record some years ago as voting not to make FEMA part of this department. That doesn't mean that I believe now is -- that it's feasible or desirable to unscramble the eggs, so to speak. I believe that in fact there are very good reasons not to subject FEMA to yet another reorganization and to yet more organizational uncertainty. And so I'm hopeful that we will leave FEMA where it is and make it work where it is.
And I think that's the main question. The main question is not whether FEMA is in or out. The question is whether the agency works well. And as far as that goes, historically you can demonstrate that during certain parts of the history, although -- (inaudible) -- FEMA was an independent agency, didn't work all that well as an independent agency. What happened in the '90s was that the Clinton administration made it work very well. But as I said, the question is making the agency work wherever it is.
Now, there are some continuing issues with regard to FEMA's integration within your department. And the tug of war that we've seen between incident management and emergency management and who's in -- who's the chief federal officer in charge after disasters, all of that is indicative, I think, of some continuing uncertainty here or some continuing debate.
Who is the principal federal official after a major disaster? There was some uncertainty about that after Hurricane Katrina and after other disasters. The emergency managers have sometimes complained bitterly that PFOs, this principal federal official position interposed can muddle the change of command in the field and that FEMA's statutorily required federal coordinating officers have always been the point of contact in the field for states and should remain so. You probably have some experience with that as a governor.
You probably also know that this committee had an ongoing discussion with your predecessor about this very issue, and partly as a result of that, this committee has carried a prohibition on designating PFOs during a Stafford Act declared disaster in the last two appropriations bills to deal with the issue.
So one question I'd like for you to clarify is whether you agree that for Stafford Act disasters FEMA should lead the federal response, pure and simple. And then I guess there are some other somewhat more complicated disasters where there's been some debate and some uncertainty and I wonder what you think there. Are there disasters or incidents you can identify where FEMA shouldn't serve as the lead federal response agency?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman. Yes, for your general Stafford Act emergency, actually FEMA should be the lead agency. And I will use the -- we've had several natural disasters already since I've served as secretary, actually quite a few. And we're heading now into hurricane season. I'm hopeful that the FEMA administrator will be confirmed shortly.
With respect to the amendment or whatever writing -- whatever you call it in appropriations bills that precludes, however, the appointment of other principal federal officials, I would hope that the committee would rethink that for the following reason and with the following example. It's too broad a prohibition. And the example is what we need to do now in the wake of the H1N1 outbreak.
We really need to do quite a bit of work over this summer, with respect to looking at what states and locals have done with respect to further training, with making things more robust, working, for example, with school districts across the country, should the H1N1 rebound and come back in a more lethal form. To do that, it would be very helpful to have regional PFOs designated to work to coordinate that training in different places around the country. So I hope that over the course of this budget negotiation and discussion we can ask members of the Congress to revisit that particular issue.
REP. PRICE: Well, we certainly will want to look at that with you. We're --
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Are you looking up the footnote?
REP. PRICE: We're looking for the language here and -- we're looking for the language. We'll put it in the record at this point. Let me say that this language was very carefully worked out. It was narrated a good deal in the course of discussion and dialogue back and forth. Certainly -- well, we -- we will have --
SEC. NAPOLITANO: We will work with you on that, Mr. Chairman.
REP. PRICE: -- in the record, yes. We agree on the Stafford Act disasters. The question is, what's the desired organization of the response to more complicated disasters that go beyond those parameters? And we certainly want to work this out. We don't want to -- we want to respond to these disasters effectively, but at the same time we don't want to compromise FEMA's authority or the kind of relationship that our state and local officials have had with FEMA, knowing where to turn, in short order, when a disaster occurs.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: I think the issue going forward needs to be not immediate response; I think those chains of command are very clear. I think the issue is the long-term recovery issue and that's where Katrina got so complicated. In fact, one of the things I did was eliminate one of those offices and an entire layer of bureaucracy between claimants and getting claims paid in the Katrina situation.
But Mr. Chairman, in light of the time we'll work with you on this issue.
REP. PRICE: Thank you.
REP. CARTER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And I've really enjoyed being with you, Ms. Napolitano. And I wish you well in your job, Madame Secretary.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Thank you, sir.
REP. CARTER: A couple of questions I wanted to ask you about. You've got about a 30 percent increase in the office of the secretary and a 76 percent increase in the office of the undersecretary for management. We talked -- which I think Mr. Lewis brought up -- ($) 220 million for the consolidation of electronic data and you explained that. Then at the operational level we go from 2,500 authorized additional border patrolmen in '09 to 44 in '10 and 1,300 in '09 of CBP officers to 65 in the FY '10. So it looks like this is more -- this budget seems to lean more towards the administrative than the boots on the ground. And everybody acknowledges that we've got -- boots on the ground is the solution to the problem.
I just wanted to know what the curiosity was on the heavy load on the management side.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: I think if you actually -- Congressman, if you actually look at the budget as a whole, in terms of everything that is funded and how it all fits together, that would not be a correct categorization of the budget. It funds the Border Patrol at the level that Congress has said it wants to get the Border Patrol to. CBP, as well, has great increases for technology and other supports to that manpower, which makes them much more effective for the man hours that they do have on the border.
So as I've said, it's not just your boots on the ground. That's step one. Then you've got to have the technology. Then you have a tactical infrastructure, that's the system. Then you have to have the interior enforcement backing them up.
With respect to how management looks, really what we are doing is now building the ribs of the department. This department was kind of put together in a hurry. But now we're in the process of creating one Department of Homeland Security. So we have moved money that previously had been at CBP and some of the components into one headquarters. We have moved money that previously had been in the components to move from 35 different locations into far fewer locations, which I've got to tell you from a management standpoint is going to be inordinately helpful and cheaper over the next several years.
And I already explained the issue with the IT and the infrastructure of the department -- was diverse and the monies for that were spread all over the department. It looks like a big increase to admin when you put them all in one place. And in actuality, we create a lot more efficiencies by doing that.
REP. CARTER: Well, by this work you're doing on management -- which I'm glad you clarified that; thank you for clarifying it -- will that assist us in -- we seem to constantly be having somebody come in here to testify in the last week before they leave again. I'll bet there must have been a dozen people who testified over the, what, four years I've been on this committee that were leaving right after that testimony. Will this help us retain some of these people, if we get a better, more efficient management structure?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: I hope so.
REP. CARTER: I hope so, too. (Laughs.)
Finally, right now I understand from talking to some of the Border Patrol people down at Laredo, when we're checking for guns and money going out --
SEC. NAPOLITANO: South.
REP. CARTER: Out south. Our machine is set up to -- I'm talking about on trains -- our machine is set up to get things coming in, okay? Now, to test going out, we just reverse the machine. We don't move it, we just -- trains are running through it this way. But the issue is that when they're running south, they almost immediately run into the Mexican jurisdiction.
So if we recognize -- in fact, they do immediately run into the Mexican jurisdiction at Laredo. So if we recognize guns or money inside a box car, it's got to be seized in Mexico. Are you aware of that? Because that is very inefficient from our guys' standpoint, because they don't know -- all they can do is call them and say, "Car number five has got guns and money in it," or whatever it's got in it. The Mexicans then do the seizing. The Mexicans, I guess, get the cash, unless you all got some deal that you work out as to who gets the cash, because I know my DA used to always want to get the cash.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: I understand that -- (inaudible) -- yes.
REP. CARTER: But I'm just curious about that, because that just is -- it's a little thing, but it's really irritating to them, because they're not in control of what they have identified.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Let me -- Congressman, this is why I like these hearings, because I hear about these things that I haven't heard about before. I'll follow up on that.
You know, prior to this initiative, we weren't doing any southbound checking, so there are undoubtedly some wrinkles to unwind -- whatever the metaphor is.
REP. CARTER: That's exactly -- a wrinkle. And that is what --
SEC. NAPOLITANO: We'll take a look at it.
REP. PRICE: All right, thank you.
REP. RODRIGUEZ: Thank you, very much.
And once again, thank you very much, and your success is going to be our success and we wish you the best. But let me just bring up two quick issues.
One -- and this is not necessarily your agency or Homeland Security, but I had some figures for armed services and DOD, Department of Defense, where there was $300 billion overruns in contracts. And I would just ask you to look at FEMA and those contracts. Nothing is worse than to see a disaster and all these people coming in knowing full well they're sticking their hands out for getting contracts and looking at those disasters as a way of making money. And so we need to come to grips with that.
I also saw the statistics that also show that sine 2004, the -- not only are there overruns of over $300 billion in that one agency, but also in terms of -- and that is DOD, not yours -- and also, in terms of the doubling of the time to compete the contracts. So I would hope -- our responsibility is oversight but that the agencies take the responsibility and I know that you will do that, and especially on those contracts, start doing the right thing.
Finally, on the fence: We -- and the chairman did some good language on that. Just to be practical in some of those situations, not to put a fence where it's going to create a problem for us in terms of flooding and endanger not only our communities but others and create a problem for us, the importance of reaching out to our constituencies.
And I still recall the comments from the chief of Border Patrol that says the fence is only as good as the amount of time that allows that individual to capture someone. So then we've got to get smart about this. We've got to get practical and look at other forms of technology to make -- that might be more cost-effective than to go in that route.
And so thank you for being here with us today.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Thank you. Thank you, sir.
REP. PRICE: Thank you.
REP. FARR: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for having this hearing and it is a long one, but it's a huge department and a lot of issues there.
One of the issues I'd like to bring out is the -- sort of the image of America when you arrive here and what you have to go through, the model ports of entry idea and the fact that declining international travel to the United States, where we have been -- international travelers consider the United States to have the world's worst entry process due to poor and rude treatment at ports of entry.
And what I was thinking when I went out to Dulles Airport where they're bragging about this model port of entry, first of all, it is ugly. It is not -- it sounds -- it does not feel like "Welcome to America." And the structure is not under your jurisdiction but the personnel inside of it are yours.
And again, with working with the secretary of State to see if we could -- we put a lot of effort into making sure our embassies are, you know, beautiful places when people visit them. There's art in there and there's sculptures, there's other things. There are things that I think we can at least -- posters and pictures of America, welcoming people to this land.
The irony of an embassy is you can't get in unless you're a VIP, because they're all, you know, fenced around. But our ports of entry are supposed to be the friendly welcoming to America and it is -- I think the problem is also that when we're changing policy why they feel that they're treated rudely is that we -- the visa has been given by the State Department overseas in the host country. They arrive here and the protocols they have to go through are Immigration and Customs.
And oftentimes, the officers are saying, "Well, we've changed this or that," but the incoming passenger has no idea. And maybe you could get the embassies and consulates to issue what the procedure is when they're going to arrive in the United States, what they're going to have to expect and go through, so that if there are changes in protocol that you want the arriving traveler to know, that we can give them out when we give them the visa.
So I hope that you can look into this. I'm chair of the travel and tourism caucus and there's just a lot of concerns about -- and I find it. I mean, there are other countries you go to and it's just that first impression, the look, and you feel really good and comfortable. And I, for some reason, if our model port of entry is the Dulles Airport -- is one of them -- it's a scary operation.
The other issue that I wanted to talk to you about was the -- that we have a customs and immigration service office in San Jose. It's a sub-office. It's 100 miles and over an hour to get there from the Salinas Valley, where we probably have the most at-risk kind of people living, because that harvests all our -- you know, when they're not in the Salinas Valley, they're down in Yuma, in your old territory. But a lot of those growers are from my district.
And we did have a mobile office that came -- an outreach office -- that came down to answer questions. We did away with that and it just struck me as you were talking that I remember changing from the old DAC disaster assistance centers, where we used to set these up after presidentially declared disasters, and changed to a registration by phone.
Could we do that -- could we look into doing that registration by phone or at least a process to answer questions? Once you've sent your application in for a change of status or your citizenship issues that we not have to have people go all the way to San Jose, that there are things they could phone in? I understand that there are -- an answering that answers questions. It's just a -- but it doesn't answer specific questions about casework. And I just thought that since you've electronically, or phone-wise, done it with disasters, where you handle hundreds of different issues for thousands of different people, that perhaps the immigration service could look at some of that.
And lastly, a comment I'd like to make: I appreciate your -- I read about your immigration integration program, where you provide grants to community-based organizations for citizenship preparation programs for new citizens and for integration of -- I've been doing a swearing-in ceremony every year around the 4th of July and we call it Proud to Be an American Day. And I get more publicity on that than anything I've ever done in Congress and it's just because of the stories of all the people that are becoming citizens.
There's no funding for that and I've actually put in a bill, but it's not -- it's like $200,000. I mean, there ought to be -- for the whole country -- there ought to be a way to encourage communities to put on these ceremonies so that you don't have to travel to the, sort of, capital cities where the federal offices are and where your ongoing immigration -- the nice thing about doing it in your communities, one, it makes the community realize what becoming an American citizen is all about; secondly, it allows the community to say thank you for doing this, and it's wonderful to do it around the 4th of July; and third, it allows those people getting sworn in to bring their families, relatives and workplace partners who can come and see them, rather than having to take a day off and drive, you know, 100 miles to get sworn in.
So I think your immigration integration program is very smart. I just hope we can take it one step further to the swearing-in ceremonies as well.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: We can take a look at that, yes.
REP. FARR: Thank you. How about the ports of entry? Can you take a look at that one, too?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Yes. You're not the first person that has raised that particular issue with me. And I understand the concern, so yes, we will take a look at that.
REP. FARR: Well, we just don't want to be recognized in the world as the worst place to come to. (Laughs.) That's just unacceptable.
REP. PRICE: Thank you.
I want to thank all the members for a good hearing with lots of participation.
And Madame Secretary, we appreciate you coming at this point, when we're all busy. But nothing more important than getting your take on this budget proposal and as we prepare to write this bill, so we thank you for your good work and for all the things you've done in a short period of time already. I look forward to this being a long relationship where we work together productively.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Thank you. Thank you, Chairman. Thank you, members.
REP. PRICE: Thank you very much.
The subcommittee is adjourned. (Sounds gavel.)