The House Appropriations Committee released its fiscal year 2015 homeland security funding bill, which would provide money for the Department of Homeland Security for the rest of the fiscal year after it was the only department to not receive full-year funding in December.

The bill, which will be considered on the House floor next week, provides $39.7 billion in discretionary funding for DHS, a slight increase from last year. It prioritizes “frontline security–including all operational, counterterrorism, and threat-targeting activities, and essential tactical equipment,” according to a committee news release, while cutting overhead costs and lower-priority programs.

The fourth National Security Cutter, the Hamilton, underway during builder's sea trials. Photo: Huntington Ingalls
The Homeland Security funding bill, which the House will consider next week, includes higher levels of funding for border patrol, detention of illegal immigrants and Coast Guard acquisition, including funding for an eighth National Security Cutter, such as the Hamilton, above. Photo: Huntington Ingalls

Congressional Republicans chose to fund all departments except DHS in December to allow more time to craft a response to President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration. This bill, however, does not directly address that issue. Rather, according to the news release, “it is expected that an amendment will be added to the bill to address the President’s recent executive action on immigration.”

The bill does address immigration in that it allocates $5.96 billion for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), $689.4 million above last year’s funding level. Much of the additional money goes to sustaining 34,000 detention beds and increasing family detention by 3,732 beds.

“The President’s fiscal year 2015 budget request for DHS failed to include funds necessary to address the arrival of children and families who will be ferried to the Nation’s borders by a network of illicit transnational criminal organizations and to manage the populations of these illegal migrants who cross our border,” reads the committee’s explanation of the spending bill. “This bill rectifies these mistakes by adding $553,589,000 for costs related to deterring such illegal migration, interdicting these migrants, caring for and transporting an estimated 58,000 undocumented children to the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and facilitating the movement of thousands of undocumented families through removal proceedings after they illegally cross the U.S. border during this fiscal year.

The bill also provides $10.7 billion for Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to support the largest operational force in CBP history, with 21,370 Border Patrol agents and 23,775 CBP officers. The CBP budget also funds testing for a biometric exit mobile application and higher levels of air-, land- and sea-based border surveillance.

“The funding in this bill is targeted to critical security and law enforcement efforts that keep our nation and people safe, and ensure the laws of the land are strongly enforced,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said in the news release. “This is a responsible bill that makes the most out of each dollar–making the necessary investments to harden our borders, protect against terrorism, and respond and recover from natural disasters–while finding ways to save wherever possible. As the last bill of the 2015 Appropriations process, it is high time we get this legislation enacted into law to strengthen our homeland security efforts, ensure our personnel are well equipped and trained, and maintain our readiness for any threats that may come our way.”

The bill would give the Coast Guard $439.5 million above the president’s request, primarily by rejecting proposed cuts “that would have gutted vital Coast Guard operations,” according to the news release. The House committee increased Coast Guard funding to allow more cutter and aviation operating hours, training and maintenance; and to purchase the eighth National Security Cutter, two Fast Response Cutter patrol boats, an additional C-130J aircraft and one H-60 remanufactured helicopter.

To save money, the bill cuts from the Transportation Security Administration, among other places. TSA would receive $94.3 million less than last year, trimming the federal screener workforce, capping full-time screening personnel at 45,000 employees and shifting to a risk-based screening approach.