Chairman Aderholt Opening Statement on FY 2013 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill for Subcommittee Markup

May 9, 2012

It is my honor to present to the Subcommittee the fiscal year 2013 appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security.

Similar to the Subcommittee’s work over the past two fiscal years, the bill before us today demonstrates how we can sufficiently fund vital security programs while also reducing discretionary spending overall.

This bill does not represent a false choice between fiscal responsibility and security – both are national security priorities, and both are vigorously addressed in this bill by focusing upon four, key priorities: Fiscal discipline – this bill reduces spending below the FY12 enacted level; oversight – this bill continues and strengthens the Subcommittee’s long, bipartisan tradition of strict accountability; support for frontline operations – this bill sustains and even increases operational programs, including border and maritime security, immigration enforcement, investigations, targeted aviation security activities, disaster relief, and cybersecurity; and preparedness and innovation – despite the bill’s overall reduction in spending, investments in preparedness grants and science and technology are substantially increased above FY12 levels.

In sum, I believe this to be a very strong bill that incorporates considerable input from virtually every Member of this Subcommittee, as well as many of our authorizing colleagues, to meet our Nation’s pressing needs for both security and fiscal restraint.

First, on fiscal discipline and spending priorities— The bill before us today provides $39.1 billion dollars in discretionary funding, or nearly half of a billion dollars, or 1.2 %, below the FY12 enacted level and almost $400 million dollars, or 1.0 %, below the President’s request. There are no earmarks in this bill or the accompanying report.

As I noted, the bill prioritizes funding for frontline personnel such as the Border Patrol, CBP officers, Coast Guard military personnel, and law enforcement agents; supports the largest immigration detention capacity in ICE’s history; sustains high-risk aviation security; fully funds the known requirement for disaster relief; supports long overdue initiatives in cybersecurity; and robustly supports intelligence, watchlisting, threat targeting systems, preparedness grants, and science and technology programs including the National Agro- and Bio- Defense Facility.

In addition, this bill reforms the way in which the Coast Guard acquires its costly operational assets and responsibly funds needed cutters and aviation assets – the essential tools that keep our coastlines safe and secure our maritime approaches against the plague of illegal drugs.

This bill also provides funding where the Administration utterly failed. This bill makes up for the $115 million dollar shortfall handed to us by the Department through phony, unauthorized fee collections as well as the $110 million dollar shortfall resulting from OMB’s failure to properly access CBP’s fee collections. The Administration may be able to rely on these fee gimmicks in the President’s budget request, but we do not have such a luxury.

With respect to oversight: This Subcommittee has a bipartisan tradition of insisting upon results for each and every taxpayer dollar that is appropriated. This is a testament to the previous leadership of this Subcommittee—the founding Chairman of this Subcommittee, Chairman Rogers, and my predecessor and now the Subcommittee’s Ranking Member, Mr. Price.

Gentlemen, it is my honor to carry on your legacy of accountability and unquestioned commitment to our Nation’s security. Therefore, the bill includes robust oversight by way of intensified spend plan requirements; reporting requirements; a full accounting of disaster relief costs; and operational requirements, to include Border Patrol staffing levels and ICE’s detention capacity.

However, I must note that DHS did an abysmal job at complying with statutory requirements enacted in FY12 – those failures are assertively addressed in the bill and report through sizable cuts and withholdings. This Subcommittee is serious about compelling the Department to both enforce the law and comply with the law. And, we will not tolerate further failures in this regard.

Finally, on preparedness and innovation: The bill increases preparedness grants by nearly 17 % and Science and Technology programs by nearly 24 % above last year’s levels. Subcommittee Members and our authorizers have provided considerable input on these programs, and I am committed to leveraging technology and well-justified investments to sustain our Nation’s preparedness, as well as solve some of our most complicated security challenges.

In closing, let me first thank Ranking Member Price. He has been a Statesman and true partner to work with on this vital bill. I sincerely thank him and his dedicated professional staff for their input and notable contributions to this bill.

In addition, let me thank the thoughtful Members of this Subcommittee – your input was vital to this Subcommittee’s oversight work over the past few months as well as the production of this bill.

Finally, I must thank the distinguished Chairman and Ranking Member of the full Committee, Chairman Rogers and Mr. Dicks. As much as we had to make difficult choices and trade-offs at the Subcommittee level, I know you both have to make many more difficult decisions across all twelve of the Subcommittees.

I sincerely believe this bill reflects our best effort to address our Nation’s most urgent needs – security and fiscal discipline. I urge my colleagues to support this measure and look forward to working with you as we move this bill through the legislative process.

I am happy to answer any questions anyone might have about the mark but, before I do, I must address one issue that the Administration has completely fumbled… and it is an issue that the President can make right today. A few months ago, during our FEMA oversight hearing, I noted that the President was proposing $1 billion dollars in additional funding for first responder grants that would be aimed at hiring veterans.

After looking at this idea, I realized that the President could do this today with existing funds. In fact, there is more than $700 million dollars in unobligated, FY11 and FY12 SAFER firefighter grant funds that could be put towards hiring veterans at this very moment… and, yet, the Administration would rather talk, than act.

On page 116 of the report accompanying this bill, we document our confusion on what the Administration is waiting for on this serious issue. I implore the President to follow through on his rhetoric and include in all current and future grant guidance the need to give hiring preference to post 9/11 veterans – after risking their lives for our country, they deserve no less.

Now, having said all that, I would like to recognize our distinguished Ranking Member, Mr. Price, for any comments he would like to make.