News you can use – What’s Big Bro Up To Now?
By David Perera @ FierceHomelandSecurity <firstname.lastname@example.org>
As a result of omnibus appropriations legislation funding federal agencies through September, Customs and Border Protection will have a record level of agents and officers and Immigration and Customs Enforcement will have the highest detention capacity in history.
The House approved the $1.012 trillion funding measure (H.R. 3547) by a vote of 359-67; the bill, which consolidates normally separate appropriations acts for federal agencies, is expected to pass the Senate.
The bill funds the Homeland Security Department and its components at an overall level of $39.3 billion in discretionary funding, an amount that’s $336 million less than the previous fiscal year’s enacted level, the House Appropriations Committee says in a DHS summary (.pdf).
CBP, however, will see an increase of $110.6 million over the enacted fiscal 2013 level, to reach $10.6 billion in appropriations for this fiscal year–allowing for “the highest operational force levels in history–21,370 Border Patrol agents and 23,775 CBP officers.”
The ICE topline will go down a little relative to the fiscal 2013 level–to $5.3 billion, a $164 million decline–but appropriators stipulate that ICE is to maintain a level of “not less than 34,000 detention beds.” During an April 2013 appropriations subcommittee hearing, then-Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the White House requested funding for the lesser number of 31,800 beds, stating that number would be sufficient to house high-risk detainees and permit cheaper alternatives for monitoring low-risk detainees, such as attaching ankle bracelets. “We ought to be managing the actual detention population to risk, not to an arbitrary number,” she said, noting that each bed costs an estimated $119 daily to maintain. ICE detention facilities have come under criticism for harmful conditions, including sexual assault.
The Transportation Security Administration will receive $4.9 billion under the bill, a decrease of $225 million relative to fiscal 2013. It also stipulated that TSA shouldn’t increase its staffing level to a level greater than 46,000 full time equivalent screeners, a level actually below the number approved by Congress during the last fiscal year, according to the fiscal 2014 DHS budget request. During fiscal 2012, TSA had funding for 46,721 screener FTEs, and through the annualized fiscal 2013 FTE, Congress approved funding for 47,358 screener FTEs. Republican lawmakers have pressured TSA to let the private sector take control of airport screening operations, although the agency says it’s not clear whether there’s any cost advantage to doing so.
The Coast Guard will get a topline of $10.2 billion, a decrease of $211 million compared to the previous year enacted amount, but $463 million more than called for in White House budget proposal. For acquisition, construction and improvements, the service is set to get $1.376 billion, and to use funds to procure a seventh National Security Cutter and contract for long lead time materials for the eighth (and final) NSC. The omnibus will also fund the production of six Fast Response Cutters–Coast Guard officials have warned that an annual production rate of less than four FRCs would cause the cost of the FRC recapitalization program to rise and put in doubt the service’s ability to buy all 58 planned total FRCs.
The disaster relief fund administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency would receive the requested $6.2 billion. The bill also contains a provision blocking the National Flood Insurance Program, which FEMA also administers, from increasing premiums for homeowners found to reside in an area at higher risk of flooding than previously thought. The delay would last through September.