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Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. BISHOP of Utah. Mr. Chairman, the Border Patrol does a great job when they are allowed to do a great job. Unfortunately, one of the ironies we have is there are certain areas of access into this country by those who are illegal that seem to be an area of choice, especially of the drug cartels and the human traffickers. There is also an unusual correlation between these areas of access and Federal property which has been designated as wilderness area or endangered species habitat. In fact, in the last year's figures that I have, over half of the illegal entries into this country went through one sector in Arizona. Only a portion of the State of Arizona is 80 percent federally controlled, much of that in wilderness area and endangered species habitat.

Ironically, the Border Patrol is restricted in these areas from the way they can enforce their purpose of patrolling the border. I find that one of the things that's very strange is the Border Patrol, on private property, has almost unlimited ability to do their job in enforcing border security.

It's only on Federal property that the Federal Border Patrol is restricted on how it fulfills its Federal purpose.

Fortunately, the drug cartels and the human trafficking, they don't necessarily care about that restriction. They, for some reason, don't necessarily respect the environmental laws that we have, and the destruction to our environment is caused by them. The trampling of those sensitive areas, pictures of endangered cacti that have been cut down and used by the drug cartels as blockades on the roads, the amount of trash that is left behind is not only destroying the environment, but also an amazingly expensive effort to try and clean it up. I have often flippantly said that the drug cartel would rather eat an endangered species than protect it.

Nonetheless, the Border Patrol is required to pay for environmental mitigation damages. Since 2007, the Department of Homeland Security has used the money we think we are appropriating to Homeland Security, to the amount of $7 million, to go to the Department of the Interior for this proposed mitigation of environmental damages.

Let me give you a couple of examples of what this has bought us in the past. At the Arizona border they had to reposition their surveillance towers, which, of course, did lead to some security gaps in those areas, but it also caused a problem with the lesser long-nosed bat, which has the nasty habit in evenings of flying into the towers.

So one of the mitigations that was insisted upon by the Department of the Interior is that the Border Patrol had to pay for a bat patrol, costing thousands of dollars, to monitor and track a bat who may, indeed, sometimes fly into a tower.

On the Sonoran pronghorn sheep, over $5 million has been paid in the last decade for the Border Patrol to create another Sonoran pronghorn herd, and to make sure that they have people there to monitor, feed, and avoid the pronghorn. And if they ever come across it, they have to stand really, really still.

Even though this provision has been revoked in recent years, at times some of this money was used by the Department of the Interior to buy land that had nothing to do with border security whatsoever.

My amendment, therefore, takes what is in this proposal, $3 million that has been earmarked for environmental mitigation, and moves it to a more legitimate and deserving use of that activity by taking it to the Air and Marine Interdiction Account to provide money for the Border Patrol to recapitalize their aging fleet.

Almost half of all the airplanes that the Border Patrol has are 33 years or older. This has impeded their operational readiness. These obsolete planes that they have make it unable for them to assist in properly securing the border. GAO, in its report, said in 2010 only 73 percent of the over 38,000 requests for air support could be granted simply because the fleet was aging at that particular time.

What it's simply trying to do here is a very simple concept. The better the Border Patrol is at controlling the border, the better the environment will be on the border. It's not the Border Patrol that causes environmental havoc; it is the drugs cartels and the human traffickers coming across. To take this money, which would go to mitigation, and put it where it is desperately needed, to try and help the infrastructure so the Border Patrol can better do their job, simply means we'll actually have a better environment by doing it.

It's the right thing to do. It would be an appropriate and intelligent thing for us to put the money where it would do the most good, in giving the Border Patrol the infrastructure they need to do their jobs along our borders, both in the North and in the South.

I urge adoption of this amendment.

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Mr. BISHOP of New York. Mr. Chairman, my amendment is simple: It reduces by $75 million the amount that DHS can spend on construction of laboratory facilities--specifically, the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, or NBAF, planned for Manhattan, Kansas--and returns those funds to the research, development, acquisitions, and operations account. This unnecessary government spending is little more than an attempt to earmark funds for a project that the Obama administration zeroed out in its FY13 budget proposal, that the DHS acknowledges will cost over $1 billion to construct, that the National Academy of Sciences has raised real concerns about the possibility of foot and mouth disease release, and that many in the agricultural community are asking, why take the chance?

When the National Academy of Sciences last reviewed the NBAF proposal, they indicated that the risk of foot and mouth disease in the Nation's Heartland was a 70 percent risk over a 50-year period. The academy also estimated the cost of a potential release of foot and mouth disease at $9 billion to $50 billion.

While it is correct that earlier this year DHS indicated this risk had been mitigated with additional design features, the National Academy of Sciences is still revising the Revised Risk Assessment. Common sense requires that until the Revised Risk Assessment is complete, we should not be entertaining the idea of appropriating precious taxpayer dollars for construction of this project.

NBAF has also become a financial boondoggle. The estimated cost of construction has skyrocketed from an original estimate of $451 million only a few years ago to well over $1 billion today. At this time, it is a colossal risk to the American taxpayer to advance a project the cost of which has doubled in less than 5 years, and when funding for fiscal years 2011 and 2012 remain unobligated.

At a time when my Republican colleagues continually argue that our Nation's debt is out of control and the deficit must be reined in, it is both hypocritical and unwise to spend taxpayer dollars that the President has not requested for a project that is still under design review, to be placed in a region that is acutely sensitive to the horrible diseases that will be studied at the facility. The only logical, responsible thing to do while the many questions surrounding NBAF remain unanswered is to wait to invest taxpayers' hard-earned money and continue to utilize existing DHS assets to study the various animal diseases that face our agricultural community.

Mr. Chairman, funding for the construction of NBAF is tantamount to a $75 million earmark for the Kansas delegation. Funds were not included in the President's budget, and the project has yet to spend the money that has already been appropriated. DHS has other important research and more pressing construction projects than NBAF.

I urge my colleagues to support my amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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