Senate Panel Proposes Increase To DHS Budget, Fully Funds Border Fence

The Senate panel that oversees funding for the Department of Homeland Security is recommending $48.3 billion for the department in fiscal year 2019, an increase above the requested amount and the current budget.

The proposal is $900 million more than the Trump administration requested and $611 million above the fiscal year 2018 appropriation, and includes $1.6 billion around 65 miles of border fencing in the Rio Grande Valley area of the southern border, in line with the request.

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Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W. Va.), chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee.

“My highest priority in writing this bill was providing what is necessary to secure U.S. borders, and I’m proud to say that our legislation recommends a major down payment to that end,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), chairman of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, said in a statement on Tuesday.

The Trump administration eventually wants at least $25 billion for a “border wall system,” which would include solid barriers, related infrastructure and technology that is integrated and layered. The administration hasn’t provided detailed operating concepts of how the various layers of the wall system would look or work.

“We have no wall,” President Trump said yesterday during a speech to the NFIB, a lobbying association in Washington, D.C., that advocates on behalf of small businesses in the U.S. “We have no border security. Without a border, you don’t have a country.”

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the ranking member on the full appropriations committee, said the funding for the fencing is limited to the existing designs on the southern border. The pending measure also requires DHS to conduct a comprehensive risk-based border security plan within 180 days of the appropriations bill becoming law.

The subcommittee’s markup was approved unanimously by voice vote and will be taken up by the full committee on Thursday.  It must still be approved by the Senate. The House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee has yet to mark up its version of the FY ’19 legislation.

The border barrier is within the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) account, which also includes $174 million for non-intrusive inspection systems at ports of entry, three more Multi-Role Enforcement Aircraft, which are supplied by Sierra Nevada Corp., $43.7 million for Remote Video Surveillance Systems, $4 million for mobile surveillance systems, and $8.2 million for new border technology, including the cross-border tunnel threat.

The Senate subcommittee also provided $750 million, as requested, to construct the Coast Guard’s first new heavy polar icebreaker in more than four decades. A construction award is planned in FY ’19 with delivery slated for 2023.

The Coast Guard ultimately wants three new heavy icebreakers and three new medium icebreakers. It currently has one of each but its heavy icebreaker, the Polar Star, is nearing the end of its service life and is costly to operate.

There doesn’t appear to be any funding in the bill for a 12th Coast Guard National Security Cutter, which would complete a one-for-one replacement with the dozen original Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters that the NSCs are replacing. Huntington Ingalls Industries [HII] is building the NSCs in Mississippi.

Senate appropriators under the leadership of former chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), who retired earlier this year, had consistently added funding for more NSCs beyond the eight in the original program of record. Detailed spending recommendations and report language are expected to be released on Thursday when the full committee marks up the bill.

Also for the Coast Guard, the subcommittee is proposing $400 million for the second Offshore Patrol Cutter, which is being built by Eastern Shipbuilding, and long-lead funding for the third vessel, and $240 million for four Fast Response Cutters, which are being built by Bollinger Shipyards. The funding proposals are in line with the requested amounts.

The subcommittee is also recommending fully funding the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) $71.5 million request for 145 computed tomography (CT)-based checkpoint scanners to screen carry-on bags for potential threats at airports. The CT technology would replace Advanced Technology X-ray scanners currently supplied by Smiths Detection and OSI Systems [OSIS] Rapiscan Systems division used at checkpoints now. Analogic [ALOG], Integrated Defense & Security Solutions, L3 Technologies [LLL] and Smiths are all vying to supply TSA with the CT scanners.’’

TSA would also receive $56 million for 31 Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response teams, which were eliminated in the administration’s budget request, and an additional $10.1 million for 50 more canine teams for passenger screening.

The National Protection and Programs Directorate would receive nearly $2 billion from the Senate appropriators, with nearly $1.1 billion pegged for cyber security, $86 million more than requested and $13 million less than in FY ’18.The National Cybersecurity Protection System, better known as EINSTEIN, would receive $406 million of the funds, and the subcommittee added $47 million above the request for the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation program. All in all, $749 million of the cyber security funding is for intrusion detection, diagnostics and mitigation related to federal civilian networks.

The markup also includes $33 million more than provided in FY ’18 to help state and local authorities secure their election system infrastructures.

The Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate would receive $813 million from the appropriators, $230 million more than requested, and would fund the Chemical Analysis and Security Center and the National Urban Security Technology Laboratory, which were both eliminated in the budget request.

The new Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office, which combines the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office and Office of Health Affairs, would receive $457 million, $28 million more than requested and level with FY ’18. The Securing the Cities nuclear detection program for a number of major urban areas in the U.S. would receive $22.1 million, level with the request and FY ’18 amounts.

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