Leading Republicans and Democrats on the House panel that weighs in on annual funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Tuesday called into question proposed cuts in the FY ’15 budget request that would reduce funding for Coast Guard front line missions and acquisition programs.

The proposed budget would trim the Coast Guard by 4 percent in FY ’15 over FY ’14 levels, including 30 percent cut to acquisition programs and a 17 percent cut to fixed-wing flight hours, Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), chairman of the House Appropriations (HAC) Homeland Security Subcommittee, said at the outset of the hearing. He added that front line operations at Customs and Border Protection (CBP) would also be cut, including flight hours by the Air and Marine Office, as well as cuts to investigations performed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. Photo: DHS
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. Photo: DHS

If this budget request is approved, it “will result in more drugs on our streets, more illegal border incursions, more mariners in distress, more transnational crime, including more instances of human smuggling and trafficking, as well as child exploitation, an outcome that is simply unacceptable,” Carter said.

Rep. Hal Rodgers (R-Ky.), chairman of the full committee, also decried the cuts to front line operations at the expense of increases to management accounts for DHS and some of its component agencies.

Rep. David Price (D-N.C.), the ranking member on the committee, did not address cuts to front line missions but said he is concerned about proposed cuts to Coast Guard acquisition and state and local grants administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said the budget reflects “hard choices” but pointed out that key Coast Guard programs such as buying the eighth and final National Security Cutter and continuing ahead with the Offshore Patrol Cutter are in the budget request.

Johnson also said he has begun a review of the DHS acquisition governance process as part of a management reform agenda. This includes how requirements and strategies are developed, how platforms and people are sustained. This will include consolidating functions that oversee acquisition so that DHS can ensure that solutions are responsive to strategy and are technologically mature and cost effective.

Separately, in its FY ’15 budget request, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) says that it expects to take deliveries of the initial Integrated Fixed Tower (IFT) system in FY ’15 and then test the system. In the FY ’14 budget bill, Congress requires CBP’s Border Patrol office to certify the initial IFT deployment before the second deployment can begin.

CBP also says in the budget documents that the Border Patrol has requested a modification to the second and third planned IFT deployments, which were originally slated for the Douglas and Sonoita Areas of Responsibility in favor of the Ajo and Casa Grande areas. This modification will delay the second deployment until FY ’17 but also provide the Border Patrol time to evaluate and certify the first deployment, CBP says.