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Public Statements

Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2012

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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MR. ADERHOLT. It is my honor to present the fiscal year 2012 appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security.

This bill before us today, perhaps more than any other bill, exemplifies the difficult choices that need to be made in order to address our Nation's fiscal crisis.

This bill demonstrates how we can fully fund vital security programs while also reducing spending overall. Furthermore, this bill does not represent a false choice between fiscal responsibility and security. Both are national security priorities, and both are vigorously addressed in this bill.

I am under no illusion that everyone here in this Chamber will agree with the spending reductions included in this legislation; but now, more than ever, our government needs fiscal discipline, and this bill takes the necessary steps toward that goal.

The bottom line: more money and more government do not equal more security. So in this time of skyrocketing debt and persistent threats, we must get our homeland security priorities right.

The bill before us today provides $40.6 billion in discretionary funding, or almost $3 billion, which is 7 percent below the request, and $1.1 billion, or almost 3 percent below the fiscal year 2011 level. In addition, the bill also includes $1 billion in offset, emergency supplemental funding for FEMA's disaster relief fund immediately upon enactment. There are no earmarks that are set out in this bill or the accompanying report.

The bill places priority on funding our Nation's greatest security needs--fully funding all frontline personnel such as Border Patrol, CBP officers, ICE officers, Coast Guard military personnel, and Secret Service agents, and fully funding all intelligence, watchlisting, and threat targeting functions.

In addition, the bill provides funding where the administration and the Department of Homeland Security have failed. This bill makes up for the nearly $650 million shortfall handed to us by the Department through phony, unauthorized fee collections. It is irresponsible for the administration to submit a budget based on the illusion that Congress is going to raise taxes or fees in this current economy.

This bill also addresses the wholly inadequate request for disaster relief funding and provides the resources to help our communities recover from natural disasters, like the unprecedented flooding across the Mississippi River Valley; the tornadoes that devastated my home State of Alabama a few weeks ago; and the horrific tornado that destroyed much of Joplin, Missouri, just a little over a week ago.

However, programs that have been underperforming and failing to execute their budgets or which have repeatedly ignored congressional directives to measure their results are significantly reduced.

In short, this bill places a priority on the taxpayers' limited dollars towards the security programs that will have an immediate impact upon our national security and responsibly reduces spending wherever possible.

The bill is constructed around three core priorities: number one, fiscal discipline; number two, targeted investments in security operations and disaster relief; and, number three, meaningful, hard-hitting oversight.

First on fiscal discipline. The bill goes further than simply cutting spending. This bill insists upon real reform--reform in how the Department justifies its budget; reform on how FEMA manages its first responder grants; and reform on how FEMA, the Department, and the administration budget for the costs of disaster relief.

Number two, on security, the bill includes nearly $150 million worth of targeted investments above the budget request for security operations--the frontline programs that are among the most critical at keeping our Nation secure and these activities that directly countered recent terrorist attacks and address known threats.

On disaster relief, I have seen firsthand what natural disasters can do over the past few weeks, and I can tell you that my constituents in Alabama are expecting FEMA to get it right. So this bill picks up from where we left off in FY 2011 and provides an increase of $850 million above the request and within the budget for FEMA's disaster relief fund to address the known and expected cost of disasters in FY 2012. And as we added unanimously in our full committee markup of the bill last week, $1 billion in offset, emergency supplemental funding is provided to FEMA to ensure that disaster relief efforts stay on track this year and well into 2012.

And, three, finally, is oversight. Our subcommittee has a long tradition of insisting upon results for each and every taxpayer dollar that is appropriated. This is a testament to the previous leadership on this subcommittee that was exhibited by our founding chairman of this subcommittee, Chairman Rogers, and also my predecessor and now the subcommittee's ranking member, Mr. Price.

This bill continues the dedication to frontline security programs and robust oversight by including numerous spend plan requirements, reporting requirements, and operational requirements, such as border patrol staffing levels and an increase to ICE's detention capacity.

Now, I know there has been some criticism on the funding level this bill is recommending for FEMA's first responder grants. Let me emphasize that there is more than $13 billion in the pipeline that has not been spent, but FEMA has yet to establish a credible method for measuring the impact of these grants.

So this bill takes bold steps to get FEMA's fiscal house in order--requiring accountability for every dollar spent, requiring a plan for drawing down the enormous unexpended balances, consolidating duplicative grant programs, putting priority on high-risk needs, and rewarding programs like the Emergency Management Performance Grants that actually spend their funds wisely and are willing to measure their results.

I know how important first responders are to this Nation. We see it every day. But we simply cannot keep on throwing money into a clogged pipeline when our debt is soaring out of control. I believe it's our duty to reform these grant programs.

Mr. Chairman, this bill is about putting a priority on limited dollars and robustly supporting the most essential functions. The Department of Homeland Security, with all its critical missions, is not immune from fiscal discipline. That means the Department has to find the most cost-effective way to meet its mission requirements. The American people are demanding no less.

In closing, let me thank Ranking Member Price. Although we have certainly had a turbulent year, he has been a statesman and a true partner as we worked on this vital bill. I sincerely thank him for his input and his contributions that he has made on this bill.

In addition, I would like to thank the distinguished chairman and ranking member of the full committee, Chairman Hal Rogers and Ranking Member Norm Dicks. As much as we have had to make difficult choices and tradeoffs at subcommittee level, I know that both of these gentlemen have had to make much more difficult decisions dealing with all 12 subcommittee budgets.

Finally, I would like to take a moment to thank the committee staff for their hard work on this bill, namely: Stephanie Gupta and Paul Cox on the minority staff; and Jeff Ashford, Kris Mallard, Kathy Kraninger, Miles Taylor, Rebecca Ore, Brian Rell, Mark Dawson, Anne Marie Malecha, and Ben Nicholson, who is the clerk of this committee, on the majority side.

I believe this bill reflects our best efforts to address our Nation's most urgent needs: security and fiscal discipline. I urge my colleagues to support this measure.

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I congratulate the Energy and Commerce Committee on pursuing the CFATS authorization on an expedited basis this year. We do hope and expect that CFATS will be authorized under regular order prior to the start of the new fiscal year. However, it was important that we include funding for the 2012 appropriation bill for CFATS, and we do not want that line item to appear to be in conflict with the currently enacted sunset date of October 4, 2011.

I look forward to a long-term authorization extension so that these chemical facilities and the people that work in them can have a long-range certainty with respect to antiterrorism plans and investments. We look forward to a good authorizing bill becoming law in time to guide our final 2012 agreements on the CFATS funding.

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As I mentioned, I reluctantly rise to oppose this amendment, which would slash the funding for the Department's management functions below what is responsible for the Nation's security and move funding to the grants.

I was hoping that we would be able to work something out on this, but it was not possible. The committee has already cut the Department's headquarters management at historic levels. In fact, the bill reduces the funding for these activities 21 percent below what the President requested himself.

This includes zeroing out the Department's new headquarters in Washington, D.C., zeroed out the funding for data center migration, and we have slashed other initiatives we cannot afford at this time. Many of these cuts were unavoidable because the President's budget request for the Department of Homeland Security was filled with phony offsets.

Since 9/11, Congress has provided $6.7 billion for this program and for the last 3 years has included a waiver for the cost share requirements with local governments. Given our Nation's dire fiscal situation, we must take a stand that it's not the Federal Government's job to bail out every municipal budget or to serve as a fire marshal for every city and town across the Nation. In today's fiscally constrained environment, the 350 million that we have included in here is a lot of money.

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MR. ADERHOLT. Mr. Chairman, the bill before us today was born out of the need for reform. It consolidates various grant programs and provides discretion to the Secretary. These reforms include funding reductions, requirements for measurement, and requirements for spending languishing dollars.

In total, this bill provides $1.7 billion for Homeland Security first responder grants. However, as we are all aware, not all programs are funded at the previous year's level.

The consolidation in this bill requires the Secretary to examine the intelligence and risk and put scarce dollars where they are most needed, whether it is a port, rail, surveillance, or access and hardening projects--or whether it is to high-risk urban areas or to States--as opposed to reverse engineering projects to fill the amount designated for one of many programs.

Additionally, as noted by the gentleman from Rhode Island, the bill limits the Urban Areas Security Initiative grants to the top 10 highest cities. Again, this puts scarce dollars where they are most needed. This does not mean lower risk cities will lose all funding; it just means the funds will come from other programs such as State Homeland grants that are risk and formula based.

These cuts will not be easy, but they are long overdue and necessary to address our out-of-control Federal spending.

Furthermore, the offset proposed by the gentleman is unacceptable. A reduction to the Border Security Fencing, Infrastructure, and Technology account would: impact operations and maintenance on the border fence; reduce investments in critical border security communications; and affect the Border Patrol's ability to procure proven technologies to increase border security immediately.

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MR. ADERHOLT. Mr. Chairman, the bill already reduces the Office of Under Secretary substantially, 6 percent below the request and 26 percent below the FY11 CR, reflecting the fact that the bill includes no funding to continue the construction of the Department of Homeland Security headquarters. The bill has reduced management to a bare minimum, with reduction of 29 percent to leadership and management offices.

The Department of Homeland Security is an agency of 230,000 employees. The number of employees in OSEM is 700, or less than one-third of 1 percent, and funding provided is also one-third of 1 percent for the total DHS budget. This is extremely small for assets needed to manage a major security department. Additional reductions would prevent filling key staffing positions and thus limit the ability of the Department to respond to national emergencies and provide stable leadership to the public and the Nation in the event of a large disaster or terrorist event.

These reductions are not compatible with running a Cabinet agency. No other Federal department is asked to manage such large responsibilities and operating components with such a small and stretched headquarters element.

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MR. ADERHOLT. Again, this proposal would further create cuts to the Department's management functions below what is responsible for the Nation's security. The committee has already cut the Department's headquarters and management at historic levels.

As I had mentioned earlier, they include the zoning act, the zeroing out of the funding for the Department's new headquarters. It zeroes out funding for the data center migration. It slashes other activities we cannot afford at this time.

The Department must still have robust funding to manage the many organizations under its authority. The Department was created from nearly two dozen agencies and still faces challenges in achieving the unified homeland security enterprise.

More importantly, the gentleman's amendment proposes that the Department pay for cell towers to provide phone services to the general public.

I'm very sympathetic to the needs of rural communities. I'm from a rural community, and certainly I'm sympathetic to remote ranchers as well. But this is not a cause that the Homeland Security can bear at this time, especially under the constraints that we have. Therefore, I urge my colleagues to oppose the amendment.

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