Rutherford Remarks at FY24 Budget Hearing for Customs & Border Protection (As Prepared)
The work agents and officers of U.S. Customs and Border Protection do every day has immense importance to both our national and economic security.
Put simply, their collective job is to keep bad things and people from entering the country illegally.
However, our agents and officers’ jobs are made harder by the President’s fundamentally unserious budget request for CBP.
Unfortunately, the Fiscal Year 24 request is full of inexplicable gimmicks, and I'll explain those later.
For example, the President proposes $174 million dollars for additional surveillance towers, but fails to provide adequate funding to maintain the ones we already have in the field.
The budget request calls for an additional 350 Border Patrol Agents, and at the same time cuts funding for Border Patrol pay by $63 million dollars.
There is not a single dollar in the CBP request to counter the small drones that the cartels fly across the border – to conduct surveillance on our agents and deliver drug loads.
In fact, the holes that Congress would have to fill, just to maintain the level of capability we have today, totals nearly $400 million dollars due to these gimmicks.
If we funded CBP at the requested level, the border would be less secure. And I know you don't want that, and neither do we.
The FY 24 request for CBP is disappointing because the men and women in the field need more funding to do the very difficult job we’ve given them.
They need more agents, officers, and processing coordinators.
We have fewer than 19,000 agents in the field. The lowest level in years, and we continue to lose seasoned agents at an unsustainable rate.
They need more advanced technology to detect illicit activity and prevent fentanyl from devastating the lives of our fellow Americans throughout the country.
And they need more physical infrastructure. But instead, this budget asks that we spend existing barrier money on environmental remediation instead of new fencing barrier.
The President’s budget request is a mere $4.2 million dollars above last year’s level – despite the record number of crossings we’ve had over the last two years.
If you factor in the high inflation we have seen over the last few months – the Administration is essentially cutting the CBP budget at a time of border crisis.
Budgets communicate priorities, and it’s clear by this request that the President’s priority is not securing our border, nor providing the men and women in the field the means to hold the line.
With Title 42 about to end, the situation on the border could easily go from bad to much, much worse.
Make no mistake, our adversaries, the Transnational Criminal Organizations who control every inch of the Mexican side of the border, will do everything in their power to continue to traffic narcotics and people fueling violence and human suffering.
I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to properly fund CBP and our border security efforts.
I’ll now turn to my colleague, Mr. Cuellar, for any opening remarks he may have.