A new proposal this week by the Trump administration outlines specific increases sought as part of a fiscal year 2019 appropriation for the Department of Homeland Security, including hundreds of millions of additional dollars for equipment that can be used to detect drugs, contraband, and weapons in vehicles and cargo entering the southern U.S. at land ports of entry.

The focal point of the request is the well-publicized $5.7 billion President Trump wants for 234 miles of steel barrier along the U.S. southwest border with Mexico, an amount Democrats in Congress have flatly rejected and has led to a nearly-three week shutdown of DHS and a number of other federal departments and agencies. There is no end in sight to the shutdown as neither the president nor Democratic leadership is budging from their respective positions.

U.S. Customs and Border protection uses imaging equipment such as Rapiscan’s Z Portal for inspecting trucks for contraband. Photo: OSI Systems

Also mentioned in a Jan. 6 letter from White House Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Russell Vought to congressional appropriators is $675 million for non-intrusive inspection (NII) technology to be deployed at inbound lanes at southwest border land ports of entry. The new request is a whopping $631 million more than originally proposed last February when the FY ’19 DHS budget request went to Congress.

Vought said the increase “would allow CBP to deter and detect more contraband, including narcotics, weapons, and other materials that pose nuclear and radiological threats.”

Trump, in an address to the nation on Tuesday night making his case for a steel barrier along the southwest border and for additional funds to what he calls a “crisis at the border,” said the “detailed proposal to secure the border” is meant to “stop the criminal gangs, drug smugglers, and human traffickers.” The president also said that a border wall would pay for itself by helping stem to illegal flow of drugs into the U.S., a cost that he said is more than $500 billion annually.

However, most illegal drugs are smuggled into the U.S. in a variety of ways, including through land, sea and airports of entry, and even by international mail.

Customs and Border Protection uses NII equipment as one of its security layers. The equipment consists of a wide range of large-scale X-ray and gamma ray imaging systems, radiation portal monitors, and portable and handheld technologies to boost security while facilitating the legitimate flow of commerce.

Some of the vendors of this technology include OSI Systems [OSIS] Rapiscan Systems division, Leidos [LDOS], Thermo Fisher Scientific [TMO], and Smiths Detection, which is part of Britain’s Smiths Group.

Senate appropriators last June in their markup of the DHS budget request recommended $174.2 million for NII equipment, $130 million above the request. The committee said the funds would be for new large and small-scale NII systems at the highest volume entry ports and it directed at least $30 million of the funds be put toward equipment to detect opioids.

House appropriators in July recommended $182 million for NII equipment.

In their respective markups, Senate appropriators, with Democratic support, fully funded the administration’s original $1.6 billion request for physical barriers on the southwest borders. A month later, House appropriators recommended $5 billion for the barriers, an amount more in line with what the president was publicly calling for even though he didn’t request that much.

House Democrats didn’t support the $5 billion, which has since grown to $5.7 billion.