Magazine article National Defense

Budget Woes May Force Homeland Security to Cut Missions

Magazine article National Defense

Budget Woes May Force Homeland Security to Cut Missions

Article excerpt

Sequester or no sequester, the Department of Homeland Security is in store for changes, a Senate Appropriations Committee staffer predicted.

The Budget Control Act calls for automatic cuts in 2013, or a sequester, if Congress doesn't reach a compromise on spending cuts by the end of 2012. The Department of Homeland Security falls under the national security category in the law, as does the Defense Department, the Department of Energy's nuclear weapons programs and foreign aid. These departments are in store for large, automatic reductions if no agreement is reached.

If the sequester goes into effect, it will mean a 7.8 percent reduction in the DHS budget, said Charles Kieffer, staff director of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security.

When congressional leadership is "making macro decisions about allocating dollars between the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security and our nuclear complex, the Department of Homeland Security doesn't compete very well," he said at a talk sponsored by the Homeland Security Leadership Forum.

However, even if the sequester doesn't go into effect, the act calls for austere spending at DHS for the next decade.

"Even if we do not have a sequester the BCA constraints are such that we have to assume that we are going to be living in a budget freeze environment for 10 years. Some mission changes will inevitably result in that," he said.

The monkey wrench in the budget crunch is the department has some bills coming due that can't be avoided.

Congress in August 2010 mandated and supplied $600 million in supplemental border security funding. That included 1,000 new Border Patrol agents. It has taken about a year to hire and train these new officers.


"Now that they're on board, are we going to let them go? I don't think so," he said. Nevertheless, there are $400 million in annualized costs for those extra agents.

The Secret Service will spend an extra $100 million providing protection to presidential candidates in 2012.

The Transportation Security Administration rushed advanced imaging technology to airports in the aftermath of the so-called Christmas Day plot in 2009. Those require extra staff training and a "sienificant logistical tail," he said.

I he Coast Guard continues to have new missions laid at its doorstep. Congress has given the service more than the president's annual request for the past few years, but that is over, he predicted. …

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