U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., Chair of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, today held a hearing on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) budget request for fiscal year 2014. At the hearing ¬- which featured testimony from DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano - Sen. Landrieu commended first responders and personnel for their work in the aftermath of the attacks at the Boston marathon, saying that it highlighted the need for strong investments in homeland security training and equipment. Sen. Landrieu also stressed the importance of investments to secure our land and sea borders, while ensuring that the U.S. remains open and attractive for tourism and business travel. As Congress considers immigration reform, Sen. Landrieu said she will be particularly involved in finding ways to pay for enhancements, while ensuring that they do not come at the expense of, or unnecessarily duplicate, current DHS efforts.
"Last week's events in Boston were a stark reminder of the threats we continue to face as a nation and that we must remain vigilant at all times. Securing our homeland is a partnership between the federal government and local entities-one that we must continue to support and strengthen. Federal investments to facilitate this preparedness must continue," Sen. Landrieu said.
Sen. Landrieu praised the administration's request for certain border security priorities, including an additional 1,600 new Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers. In addition, CBP and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) have successfully expanded programs to expedite security screenings, including through the Global Entry and PreCheck programs, both priorities of Sen. Landrieu. But she said more investment is necessary, both to protect the nation from threats and illegal entry, and to facilitate legal entry for business and tourism. She said border security issues will continue to take center stage, particularly as Congress weighs immigration reform.
"Just last week, the Senate unveiled a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform package, something that is urgently needed for the economic strength and security of our country, but also something that will have serious implications on how DHS directs personnel and resources over the next five to ten years. The budget before us today only contains a few proposals to fund these reforms and in some cases - such as detention resources - funding moves in the opposite direction. More will be required if not in 2014, certainly in the years to come," Sen. Landrieu said.
"At the same time, we must do more to reduce wait times at our air and land ports for legal travelers to the U.S. Studies and surveys indicate these long lines are a major reason why tourists choose to go to countries other than the United States for their vacations. International arrivals to the United States finally rebounded in 2012 to their pre-9/11 level for the first time in over a decade, but during that same period, we have lost 40 percent of global market share of these important tourists. This problem has profound impacts on our economy in general."
Sen. Landrieu also expressed concern that the budget fails to provide adequate funds for Coast Guard acquisitions, and cyber security education. Sen. Landrieu has been a staunch supporter of robust funding for the Coast Guard so it can continue to meet its growing mission, and for the Cyber Innovation Center (CIC) in Bossier City, La., which serves as a model for the rest of the country on how to educate and train a cybersecurity workforce.
"The Coast Guard has received new assets to replace a deteriorating fleet, such as National Security Cutters, Fast Response Cutters, and Maritime Patrol Aircraft. However, significant work remains in this area and in my view the budget before us severely underfunds critical acquisitions, putting the Coast Guard further behind in acquiring the assets it needs to fulfill its mission," Sen. Landrieu said. "The budget also funds investments in necessary cybersecurity technologies like Einstein and continuous monitoring of federal networks through shortsighted cuts to training and educating the cyber warriors of the future. We need to do both."