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Public Statements

Department of Homeland Security Appropriation Act, 2014

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Unknown

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Mr. CARTER. I want to thank the gentleman for his comments, and I appreciate your concern and agree with you this is a topic of high concern to everyone. As you saw, our bill contains numerous oversight requirements to address these issues.

I look forward to working with the gentleman as the bill moves through the process to ensure that Congress has the most comprehensive information possible on the costs associated with natural disasters. And I agree that if there is a way to mitigate, we should look into that.

I look forward to working with you.

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Mr. CARTER. Madam Chair, I appreciate the gentleman's question. The committee has long expressed concerns with the operation of the National Capital Region Coordination Office, and numerous GAO audits have confirmed our concerns that the office has been underperforming its potential to improve regional preparedness coordination. I share the gentleman's desire to improve collaboration across the National Capital Region with the Federal Government, and I know Administrator Fugate is committed to doing just that. I am confident that the coordination responsibility outlined in section 882 can be fulfilled within this reorganization under the Office of the Administrator.

Ranking Member Price and I are committed to making sure FEMA acts on the recommendations of the GAO to better meet with the requirements, and we will work to include you and other members of the National Capital Region delegation in that effort.

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Mr. CARTER. I thank my good friend, Mr. Cole, for yielding.

The bill before us today builds on our actions of last year and includes robust funding for FEMA in the disaster relief category, funding that will most definitely assist those who lost so much in Oklahoma over the last few weeks.

As of this morning, the Disaster Relief Fund currently has a balance of approximately $11 billion, which is sufficient to address the needs of Oklahoma and other recent disasters.

As Oklahoma begins the road to recovery, I will continue to work with the gentleman to ensure we are doing everything that we can to help the devastated communities. Our hearts go out to those folks.

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Mr. CARTER. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the opportunity to work with the gentleman on this issue, but I cannot accept this amendment.

Following the 2004 Madrid train bombing and the 2005 London bombings that targeted civilians using public transportation, Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response, or VIPR teams, were developed to allow TSA to utilize Federal, State, and local law enforcement to protect our Nation's transportation system, including securing our surface transportation systems from the threat of terrorism.

TSA's Surface Transportation Security is responsible for assessing the risk of terrorist attacks for all non-aviation transportation modes. And the VIPR teams, which are specifically authorized in the 9/11 Act, play an important role in protecting our Nation's surface transportation systems.

Simply put, the presence of these teams is intended to promote confidence in our Nation's transport system by preventing terrorism to any mode of transportation, including surface transportation. Now is not the time to eliminate this important program which serves to secure our surface transportation systems from acts of terrorism.

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Mr. CARTER. Reclaiming my time, let me say that I listened to what you said before, and you don't need to be repetitive. I understand your concerns. And quite honestly, they're valid concerns; and I will, as chairman of this committee, with the assistance of Mr. Price, look into these arguments that you have made.

But at this time I cannot accept your amendment. And I don't need to hear the arguments a second time to accept your amendment. So I'm opposed to this amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. CARTER. Mr. Chairman, I would like to say to my colleague, I'm on the same wavelength as him, and I have had both my personal office and my staff here at the committee look into in detail the allegations that he has raised by his amendment. He is quite accurate that the amount of ammunition that presently seems to be in the hands of DHS and the amount of purchases that have taken place over the last 3 years from a gun owner standpoint, if you take a good hard look at it, it looks like they're shooting an awful lot of rounds as practice. I have the same concerns he has about that.

That's why I put into this bill at my request this review of the training exercises: How many rounds are issued for training? How many rounds are issued for firing in harm's way? A complete report to the Congress of the United States was issued because the American people are very concerned about this issue.

I will assure my colleague we're going to look at this report in detail. We're going to have hearings and discuss this with the members of DHS, and all the gun-toting DHS folks, to get an accurate assessment of how much shooting they do and how much they need to shoot.

By my own personal inquiry, by talking to ICE last Friday--in addition, I talked to the Border Patrol personally, and they shoot four times a year to qualify--quite honestly, they acknowledged that they don't need as many rounds as people think they do.

But we want to get this study done. And if we can, have patience to do the study and not try to restrict contracting until we know. And I honestly am not encouraged to allow DHS to have huge stockpiles of ammunition around the country. We want to have an efficient utilization of the purchasing power.

As to the contracting power that they have for that billion-plus rounds, that's a process that I learned through my questions that is used to keep the lowest possible price, and there's no intent to make that----

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Mr. CARTER. I will in just a moment.

There's no intent to make that type of purchase by DHS in any form or fashion. It's just a way that contracting is done on ammunition to utilize the cheapest price.

I will also say--and then I will yield--we checked with every ammunition manufacturer in the country, and they assured me that the shortage of ammunition on the shelves for the American hunter and shooter is not because of purchases by DHS or the military or anybody else. Quite honestly, it's because the American people are buying rounds as fast as they come on the shelf, and they're competing with their fellow Americans.

I will be glad to yield to my friend.

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Mr. CARTER. In reclaiming my time, I understand the gentleman's argument. I think it is in the best interest for us to go forward with this study. We are going to keep a close eye, which is why we've got this issue in this bill, but I am not prepared at this time to restrict contracting, so I have to oppose the amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. CARTER. These three amendments en bloc that we've got here, I want to address them as they were raised.

I support the first amendment with the reservations that I don't understand some of the language in section B, but I'm not here today to act in the judicial interpretation of what is already in law. I have some questions about the ``civilly charged,'' but I'm not going to go into that, so I will accept that amendment.

On the second amendment, which concerns the three sections of the Constitution, I certainly will accept that. In fact, I would not like for anything within this bill to be in contravention of any section of the United States Constitution, so I certainly have no problem with that.

Thirdly, the Department has no intention of having armed drones, and we will certainly accept the third amendment. I am willing to accept all three.

I yield to the gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. Price).

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Mr. CARTER. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

Chairman Mica makes very good points. FLETC and DHS should review their training regimen and determine where simulation equipment makes sense. I appreciate the gentleman bringing this opportunity to my attention and look forward to working with him.

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Mr. CARTER. I oppose this amendment because it would make it impossible for CBP to carry out its mandated mission to inspect and clear agricultural products that enter the United States from a foreign country.

A mixture of fees and discretionary funds pay for CBP officers that inspect and clear foreign ag products. When fees run out, discretionary funds pay for the officers' work.

If we do not provide these funds, as the amendment proposes, agricultural imports to the United States would effectively halt and halt trade.

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Mr. CARTER. Though in principle I believe there are times when alternatives to detention make sense, utilizing them to release convicted criminals is never appropriate. Therefore, I appreciate Congressman Collins calling attention to the importance of ICE maintaining a robust capability to detain and maintain custody of illegal aliens, especially those convicted of violent and serious crimes and felonies like drug trafficking, prostitution and conspiracy.

Included in this bill is no less than $2.8 billion for enforcement and removal operations, which include $148 million to fully support the statutory requirements to maintain at least 34,000 beds, which is critical if we're going to ensure that convicted criminals and repeat offenders do not endanger public safety. Therefore, I'm happy to accept the gentleman's amendment, and I reiterate my appreciation for Congressman Collins for offering it. And as to the fact that he didn't get information from ICE or from DHS, I've had the same experience and I was just as upset as you are.

I support the Congressman's amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. CARTER. Mr. Chairman, I share some of the concerns of the gentleman from Mississippi, and I believe that the outstanding question still remains over the actual value of the Behavior Detection Officer, BDO program, which has yet to be sufficiently validated by TSA. In addition, it is my understanding that a recent OIG report may validate the concerns Mr. Thompson has raised about the program. In the report accompanying this bill, this committee also articulated some of the same concerns of Mr. Thompson, including whether passengers are screened in an objective and cost-effective manner.

However, I cannot accept this amendment at this time to zero out the program. I remain hopeful that TSA will correct these issues. And my colleague, Chairman McCaul, has also said he is hopeful that we can correct these programs. I will be willing to work with Mr. Thompson and Mr. McCaul and anyone else who has concerns about this to make sure that this program is effectively administered and effectively worked. So at this time, I oppose the amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. CARTER. I thank the gentlewoman from California for engaging me in this colloquy.

As she had just stated, wait times at our ports of entry, both vehicle and pedestrian, have increased in recent years. I would have supported the gentlewoman's amendment, but will vow to work with her in ensuring that the proper funds are given to the pedestrians to reduce wait times at land ports of entry. I'll be glad to work with you on this issue.

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Mr. CARTER. The authorizers have indicated that they oppose this amendment that's being proposed by my friend from New Jersey. I'm reluctant to oppose it. So I just wanted to make the statement that the authorizing committee is opposed to this. We've had a debate almost ad nauseam on the State of Louisiana, with exactly the same amendment. I think everything that's been said about this flood program has been said, so I'm not going to continue that debate. I just wanted to make a note that although I'm not going to officially oppose it, I will state that the authorizers were supposed to be here to oppose.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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