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Public Statements

Hearing of the House Appropriations Committee - FY 2012 Agriculture Bill

Statement

By:
Date:
Location: Unknown

"It is my honor to present to the Committee 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 today will agree with the spending reductions included in this bill; but now, more than ever, our government needs fiscal discipline, and this bill takes necessary steps toward that goal.

"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 dollars in discretionary funding, or almost $3.0 billion, or 7.0 %, below the request, and $1.1 billion, or almost 3.0%, below the fiscal year 2011 level. There are no earmarks in this bill or the accompanying report.

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

"In addition, this bill provides funding where the Administration and DHS have failed. This bill makes up for the nearly $650 million dollar 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 fantasy 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 and the tornadoes that devastated my home State of Alabama a few weeks ago.

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

"In short, this bill prioritizes the taxpayers' limited dollars towards the security programs that will have an immediate impact upon our Nation's security and responsibly reduces spending wherever possible. The bill is constructed around three core priorities: fiscal discipline; targeted investments in security operations and disaster relief; and meaningful, hard-hitting oversight.

"On fiscal discipline, this bill goes further than simple spending cuts. This bill insists upon real reform -- reform in how the Department justifies its budget; reform of how FEMA manages its first responder grants; and reform of how FEMA, the Department, and the Administration budget for the costs of disaster relief.

"On security, this bill includes nearly $150 million dollars 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 those activities that directly countered recent terrorist attacks and address known threats.

"On disaster relief, I have seen firsthand the devastation Mother Nature can inflict 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 fiscal year 2011 and provides an increase of $850 million dollars above the request and within the budget for FEMA's disaster relief fund to address the known and expected costs of disasters in fiscal year 2012.

"Finally, on oversight. This 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 of this Subcommittee, as exhibited by the founding Chairman of this Subcommittee, Chairman Rogers, and my predecessor and now the Subcommittee's Ranking Member, Mr. Price.

"Gentlemen, I have attempted to continue your 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 not only is there more than $13 billion dollars 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 the disparate grant programs, and rewarding programs like 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 our Nation's preparedness -- we all see it every day. But, we simply cannot keep 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 prioritizing our limited dollars and robustly supporting the most essential functions. DHS, with all of 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 first thank Ranking Member Price. Although this has certainly been a turbulent year, he has been a Statesman and true partner to work with on this vital bill. I sincerely thank him and his professional staff for their input and contributions. In addition, let me thank the distinguished Chairman and Ranking Member of the full committee, Chairman Rogers and Mr. Dicks. As much as we had to make difficult choices and trade-offs at the Subcommittee level, I know you both have to make much more difficult decisions across all twelve of the Subcommittees.

"I sincerely believe this bill reflects our best effort to address our Nation's most urgent needs -- security and fiscal discipline. I urge my colleagues to support this measure and look forward to working with you all as we move this bill through the legislative process."


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