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Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2012

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CARTER. Madam Chairman, I rise today to offer an amendment
which would strip funds allowed to the Department of Homeland Security Climate Change Adaptation Task Force. The U.S. Government has no shortage of agencies dedicated to studying global climate change and its impact.

For fiscal year 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, has a budget of $6.6 billion and identifies taking action on climate change as their number one goal in its fiscal year 2011 through 2015 strategic plan. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, which among other things is charged with climate monitoring, has a budget of $5.6 billion for fiscal year 2011.

So why is Secretary Napolitano--why, at a time when our Nation is running a public debt of over $14 trillion, should the Department of Homeland Security be spending money on a Climate Change Adaptation Task Force?

Millions of pounds of illegal drugs are trafficked across our border each year. On May 9, 12 suspected members of the infamous Zeta drug cartel and one Mexican marine were killed in a shootout on Falcon Lake along the Texas-Mexico border, the same lake where a U.S. citizen was shot and killed by pirates while boating last September.

An untold number of men, women, and children are trafficked across our border for both sexual and labor exploitation, which is equivalent to modern-day slavery. Additional intelligence recovered from Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, revealed that al Qaeda was considering launching attacks on U.S. trains and subway stations.

Last October, two packages containing explosives were shipped from Yemen addressed to Chicago-area synagogues, and they were discovered on an air cargo plane. A vast network of computers and operating systems which our government and economy relies on to operate every day is under threat from cyberattacks originating from countries such as Russia and China.

These are the priorities that the Secretary should be focusing on, not wasting time duplicating the work of the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The Secretary's Climate Change Adaptation Task Force is a waste of time and resources. And those resources should be devoted to securing our borders and ensuring the safety of our homeland.

I urge my colleagues to support this amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.

Mr. PRICE of North Carolina. Madam Chair, I rise in opposition to the amendment.

The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. PRICE of North Carolina. Madam Chairman, I was intrigued with this amendment. I didn't quite understand the import of it. So I have done a little research, talked to the Department of Homeland Security about the extent of their activities with this task force and what the affect of this amendment might be. So I would like to offer a little reality check here and suggest that this amendment is not merited.

This amendment, for starters, will not save any money. It simply prohibits the Department of Homeland Security and its employees from, in any way, planning for the effects of climate change.

Now the debate isn't about whether or not one believes that climate change is being caused by human beings. The fact is that whatever the cause, climate change is occurring in certain parts of the world. Both the U.S. Coast Guard and the Navy have testified before congressional committees that their operations are greatly affected, particularly in the Arctic region.

The Department of Homeland Security has identified other specific climate change-related impacts on DHS missions. These include, as you might expect, disaster response activities and the protection of critical infrastructure.

Now given the historic flooding that's occurred along the Mississippi as well as the worst tornado season we've experienced since 1950 with over 1,200 tornadoes and 500 deaths, it's understandable that DHS might just want the best available information on climate change.

Now I want to clarify any misinformation here. There are no DHS employees nor are any DHS funds dedicated full-time to climate change. One person at the department has spent a limited amount of time representing DHS at these task force meetings and activities--one person. So prohibiting funds going toward this effort is not going to save any money.

But there are several DHS components, including FEMA and the Coast Guard, that have been able to leverage cross-government expertise from the task force on both climate issues and on long-range planning generally. I would think that's exactly what they should do.

So what this amendment would do, rather than saving any money, it would simply prevent DHS persons from meeting or even talking to each other regarding the task force.

Now it's prudent and necessary for DHS to be able to work with its partner agencies to plan for the effects of climate change on their missions, and it's proper and important that our government agencies be able to talk to each other about the changes they are witnessing and the accommodations to their missions that might need to be made.

So, Madam Chairman, again, the Carter amendment will not save one dollar. Instead, it will prevent DHS from engaging in contingency planning with partner agencies across government. This is a debate, if it's about anything, it's about ensuring good government and intelligent planning and responsible coordination.

I urge my colleagues to vote against the amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.

Mr. DICKS. I rise in opposition to the amendment, and move to strike the requisite number of words.

The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Washington is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. DICKS. I again want to compliment the ranking member for his lucid description of the Department of Homeland Security's work on climate change.

We have had a weather season that has been extraordinary. Whether this climate change that we're experiencing is caused by humans or if it's just happening, either way, the Department of Homeland Security should be engaged in the interagency efforts to find out what we can do to minimize and adapt to the climate change. This affects weather. We've seen the storms that have been mentioned. It also affects the northern latitudes where we are seeing the polar ice melting, so the Coast Guard is going to have more responsibility to go into those areas because other countries are trying to exploit this.

I would just say to the gentleman, if there is only one person working part time on this, I don't see a reason to prohibit it, and I would urge the gentleman to withdraw his amendment.

Mr. CARTER. Will the gentleman yield?

Mr. DICKS. Certainly, I yield to the gentleman from Texas.

Mr. CARTER. I may have misunderstood Mr. Price; but I believe he said there was one person who had gone to the meeting of the task force, which included FEMA and the Coast Guard.

Is that what you said?

Mr. PRICE of North Carolina. Yes, FEMA and the Coast Guard.

Mr. CARTER. Aren't FEMA and the Coast Guard part of the Department of Homeland Security?

Mr. PRICE of North Carolina. Yes.

Mr. CARTER. So there is more than one person for sure, and if it is so negligible and of no consequence----

Mr. DICKS. Then why bar it?

Mr. CARTER. I don't understand why you won't accept the amendment.

Mr. DICKS. Because it would bar the department from even discussing it with anybody. I think it is so shortsighted. This is a national security issue.

The Navy is now looking at the coastal areas. As the seas rise, it's going to affect Navy installations all over this country. I brought in the Park Service when I was chairman of the Interior. I brought in the Forest Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service. They all see the effects. We have a longer fire season.

This is something you can't ignore. This is a national issue that is significant, so to have a Department of Homeland Security that isn't going to
look at the consequences of climate change after what we've seen this year is just ridiculous on the face of it.

Mr. CARTER. Let me point out that I did not ask that the department not look into climate change. I asked that we take any funds that are allocated to the Department of Homeland Security's Climate Change Adaptation Task Force. If there is no such task force, there is none. I believe there is, but if there is none, then there is none. I'm not saying they can't talk about climate change.

In addition, I named two agencies that are spending close to $15 billion in studying climate change. You, in addition, named the Navy, and you named other agencies that are looking into it. All of these agencies are spending tons of money. So why can't we get information from those people? Why do we have to go off and spend money, which we desperately need on our borders in order to protect ourselves from the real terrible violence that is slaughtering people on the Mexican border, on something for which you named five different groups that are studying it and for which I named two additional? Explain that to me.

Mr. DICKS. Why can't Homeland Security, with the Coast Guard and FEMA and all of these organizations, be part of the interagency effort? They're not wasting money on this. This is important research.

Mr. PRICE of North Carolina. Will the gentleman yield?

Mr. DICKS. Yes, I yield to the gentleman.

Mr. PRICE of North Carolina. Is it actually less efficient to shut off this kind of interagency discussion and to say that the representative from FEMA or the Coast Guard simply can't participate and that they have to reinvent the wheel? I simply don't understand the rationale, when interagency work is going on and when it has the potential to inform Homeland Security's work, why they shouldn't take advantage of that.

Mr. DICKS. Again, FEMA responds to weather disasters, so they have got to be involved in the task force that is looking at climate change. I just can't believe that the gentleman really wants to do this.

Mr. CARTER. Will the gentleman yield?

Mr. DICKS. I yield to the gentleman from Texas.

Mr. CARTER. NOAA is the Weather Bureau. They're the weather folks who are studying this thing. They've got $5.6 billion to study it. I'm not asking for the world. If you'll recall, the last time you all were in charge, you took a spy satellite or two, moved them out of Afghanistan, and put them over the roles in order to study the roles.


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