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  6. Secretary Speaks on Need to Fund DHS

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Secretary Speaks on Need to Fund DHS

Yesterday, Secretary Johnson was joined by leadership and employees from across the Department of Homeland Security to discuss the consequences of a permitting a DHS shutdown.

“I am also honored to stand here today with the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security, many of whom you see behind me. These are men and women who reflect a much larger workforce that is responsible for keeping our homeland safe,” Secretary Johnson said.

“The people you see behind me reflect a workforce responsible for border security, aviation security, port security, maritime security, cyber security, protection of critical infrastructure in this country, protection of our national leaders, and response to disasters.”

Read Secretary Johnson’s remarks:

Good afternoon. I am pleased to be joined this afternoon by the Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, the Commissioner of CBP Gil Kerlikowske, the Under Secretary for NPPD Suzanne Spaulding, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, the Assistant Secretary for Immigration Customs Enforcement Sarah Saldana, the Director of the Secret Service Joe Clancy, Director of USCIS Leon Rodriguez, the Acting Administrator of TSA Mel Carraway and our CFO Chip Fulghum.

I am also honored to stand here today with the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security, many of whom you see behind me. These are men and women who reflect a much larger workforce that is responsible for keeping our homeland safe.

The people you see behind me reflect a workforce responsible for border security, aviation security, port security, maritime security, cyber security, protection of critical infrastructure in this country, protection of our national leaders, and response to disasters.

None of this is free. We need a partnership with Congress to support our efforts. Currently, the Department of Homeland Security is being funded by a continuing resolution. That continuing resolution expires in just 4 1/2 days. The clock is ticking, and as I stand here, there's nothing from Congress to fund us beyond that point.

The American public needs to understand the consequences of permitting a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security. Here are just a few.

First, we will be forced to require some 75% to 80% of our men and women to come to work without pay. There are serious consequences for the working men and women of our Department standing behind me if they are required to come to work and try to make ends meet without a paycheck, for themselves and their families. This includes the men and women of the United States Coast Guard.

Second, we must, in the event of a shutdown, furlough approximately 30,000 of our employees, including our headquarters’ staffs. What does that mean? What are the consequence in that? An example. Every day I press the staff at my headquarters to stay one step up ahead of groups such as ISIL, to stay one step ahead of threats to our aviation security, to closely monitor and to stay one step ahead of illegal migration on the southern border, and to stay one step ahead of our weather conditions, to closely monitor our weather conditions in a very harsh winter. If we shut down, that staff is cut back to a skeleton.

Third, approximately 80% of FEMA's permanent appropriated workforce, 80% furloughed.

Fourth, our ability to grant money to state and local law enforcement, which they rely upon for their own homeland security missions, grinds to a halt, either because there is no money or the ability to process payment has been furloughed.

Fifth, service providers and suppliers of this Department do not get paid during the period of the shutdown. Again, because there's no money or because our ability to process payments have been furloughed. I could go on and on.

Overall, a shutdown of Homeland Security would have serious consequences and amount to a serious disruption in our ability to protect the homeland.

To those in Congress who may be contemplating punting or kicking the can a few weeks down the road, I must remind you that the consequences to this Department, if we remain on a continuing resolution, are also severe. We are restricted to last year's funding levels if we are on a continuing resolution and must operate in a state of uncertainty about when the next infusion of funds will be.

As I have said many times now, it is like trying to drive across country with no more than five gallons of gas in your tank, and you do not know when the next gas station will appear. We cannot pay for the enhancements to border security on the Southern border that we have put there. We cannot fund new non-disaster assistant grants to state and local law enforcement. Every governor, mayor, police chief, sheriff, and police commissioner should be concerned about this. We cannot pay for the things we need for the United States Secret Service in the coming presidential election cycle. This is no way to run a government.

On behalf of the men and women up here on this stage and for homeland security and public safety, we need a fully funded Department of Homeland Security. We need the Congress to pass a Fiscal Year 2015 appropriation for the Department of Homeland Security, free of amendments that attempt to defund our executive actions to fix the immigration system. The president has said he will veto a bill that comes to him with such language.

As the president and I have said many times, we welcome a debate in Congress about immigration and immigration reform. We know that there are strong views on the subject, but do not tie that debate or an effort to defund our executive actions to the ability of our Department of Homeland Security to function in its entirety. Do not tie debate about immigration to the funding of homeland security for this nation.

Now, at this point I would like you to hear from just two of our component heads. I will call upon the Commissioner of Customs and Border Patrol Gil Kerlikowske.


Commissioner Kerlikowske: Thank you all very much for being here. As the Secretary said, there's a human face to this. We have 60,000 employees. We’re going to be asking them, Border Patrol agents, Customs people at inspections to go to work without a paycheck. When you are young, and I remember as a young police officer, I do not think the mortgage holder would have been too sympathetic if I was working and was not getting paid. I don’t think the hospital would have been sympathetic to my plight either. That is significant. Let me give you another concrete example of the human face to this problem.

The human face is that we have been actively hiring Customs and Border Protection officers and Border Patrol agents, literally almost 500 that are in our training academy right now. We will give them a plane ticket home and send back home from those academies in Georgia and Artesia, New Mexico, and we will not be paying for them.

When this happened before, some did not return. We spent a lot of money in training and hiring and making sure that they were properly screened, and when they went back home, people said you are pretty attractive person for a job there. We cannot continue on this path.

It is my pleasure to introduce the administrator of FEMA, Craig Fugate.

Administrator Fugate: Good afternoon. As the Secretary said, a continuing resolution is not the way to run the Department. If some of the impacts that are occurring right now at state and local governments that we not initiating the grant programs. These are reoccurring programs that are considered new activities. One in particular is a 50-50 match program that is used to fund in your local government, local emergency managers, and then state capitol state emergency managers, their salaries. Those funds will be necessary to pay those salaries, and without the grants, there will be impacts at both the local community level and the state level for impacts at the local community personnel, not equipment, not stuff, not training, but people that are currently serving at the local level whose grant dollars are dependent upon for their salaries.

If we end up in a shutdown, I have heard this said, and I like to be factual that the impact will not be that great because most of the people at DHS will still be at work. And I have heard that said about FEMA. So I want to be upfront and tell you what this means. In 2013, the last time we shut down the federal government, FEMA had to furlough 3,360 full-time people. Now, most people say FEMA has more people than that, that are not a big deal. Until you recognize the fact that without that staff we cannot continue to make any payments on outstanding disaster recoveries from any open disaster. Those funds that are for those disasters will still be there, but the people required to actually make those payments to oversee that will not leave there.

We will not be able to respond to governors' requests for disaster assistance unless it involves life-saving and property, and only under an emergency declaration.

And, we will have to recall staff if an emergency occurs, which happened in 2013 with Tropical Storm Faye we had to recall back permanent staff to staff up the operation centers and headquarters in the regions. Not only are they not getting paid, they're not there when the country needs them, and they have to be called back.

So there are real consequences not only to the people that are not part of the 1% not getting paychecks, there are real impacts our ability to support the recovery from Sandy, Katrina, the Colorado floods, you name it, because our ability to continue to pay and the rebuilding of those disasters will be delayed or postponed, and it will not be made up.

Last thing, there's a lot of our emergency responders that are supposed to be traveling this weekend to our training centers. They are not going to be able to go without a budget, and we will not be able to make up that training. Now some of that training is so rare we are the only facility outside the military that does live agent training for first responders and hazmat teams. That will be hard to reschedule. It will not be easy to what is of loss; most of those people will not be able to take it this year. It will delay them this year. There is a consequence of a CR and shutdown on our ability too. Thank you.

Last Updated: 02/05/2021
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