Today U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) wrote to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano to express outrage with the recent actions of the Department in response to sequestration. These include releasing detainees from detention centers across the country and issuing furlough notices to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel. Sen. Cornyn demands a list of alternative cost-saving measures that were considered, an explanation as to why DHS is targeting CBP instead of non-security personnel for furlough, and a description of all charges that were being pursued against all released detainees.
"These actions call into question the Department's commitment to its core missions and raise serious concerns about the judgment of DHS leadership," wrote Sen. Cornyn.
"I would urge you to follow OMB Guidance and look at alternative ways to implement the requirements of sequestration, including renewed efforts to eliminate wasteful and duplicative spending not aligned with core missions."
Full text of the letter is attached and below:
March 8, 2013
The Honorable Janet Napolitano
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
3801 Nebraska Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20528
Dear Secretary Napolitano:
I write today to express my concern with your recent statements regarding the impact of sequestration on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). I believe the misleading information you have provided regarding possible negative outcomes is unnecessary and an unacceptable alternative to producing common sense solutions to meeting the requirements of sequestration.
Under the March 1 sequestration, the Department is required to identify approximately $3.1 billion in cuts for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013, a 5.1 percent reduction of total discretionary spending. In written testimony submitted to the Senate Appropriations Committee, you indicated that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) would have to reduce its work hours "by the equivalent of over 5,000 Border Patrol agents and the equivalent of over 2,750 CBP Officers."
On March 4, you warned air travelers to expect delays in airport processing time of "between 150 and 200 percent" due to elimination of overtime and furloughs for Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and other airport agents. In a letter also dated March 4 to Governor Rick Perry, you outlined how sequestration would impact DHS operations in Texas, including an increase in average peak wait times of up to 3 hours at certain Land and Air Ports of Entry, curtailed Coast Guard air and maritime operations along the Gulf Coast by up to 23 percent, and a reduced bio-agent and explosive detection capacity.
Border security and the detention of those who violate our laws are at the core of DHS's mission. Yet last week, your Department released an unknown number of detainees into communities across Texas and the United States. To this day, your Department has not responded to numerous Congressional and state government requests for detailed information regarding the total number of detainees released by your department, the legal violations for which these individuals were being detained, or a geographic breakdown of releases. Your Department also released furlough notices on March 7, including notices to CBP personnel which explained the decision to furlough as required "to promote the efficiency of the [CBP] service by avoiding a deficit of funds in FY2013." These actions call into question the Department's commitment to its core missions and raise serious concerns about the judgment of DHS leadership.
Your actions and rhetoric regarding the requirements of sequestration are inconsistent with guidance provided to your Department. A January 14, 2013 notice from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) urged agencies to "use any available flexibility to reduce operational risks and minimize impacts on the agency's core mission." The proposed furloughs of personnel and the release of criminal alien immigrants represent a violation of certain of the Department's basic core missions, including: prevent terrorism and enhance security, secure and manage our borders, and enforce and administer our immigration laws.
I would urge you to follow OMB Guidance and look at alternative ways to implement the requirements of sequestration, including renewed efforts to eliminate wasteful and duplicative spending not aligned with core missions. The President's own budget request for FY2013 estimated that the DHS could achieve $822 million in administrative and overhead savings by reducing spending on agency travel, printing, promotional materials, and costs associated with government vehicles.
I request a detailed list of alternative measures your Department considered to meet the budgetary reductions required by sequestration, particularly those which achieve cost savings without endangering our nation's security and trade. With respect to the announced intention to furlough CBP and Border Patrol personnel, I request an explanation as to why DHS is targeting these agents and officers instead of prioritizing non-security budget reductions. With respect to your Department's decision to release criminal detainees, I request a detailed description of the charges that were being pursued against all released detainees and whether or not those charges are still pending.
I look forward to your detailed and prompt reply.