Secretary Jeh Johnson: Good afternoon everybody. Over the last few weeks I have outlined the consequences of a failure to fully fund The Department of Homeland Security with a full-year appropriations bill for fiscal year 2015. We have stressed that shutdown of the department means that almost 200,000 people will be required to come to work without pay during the period of a shutdown. We have stressed that 30,000, approximately 30,000, DHS employees will be furloughed, including most of our headquarters staff. We have stressed that as long as the department is on a continuing resolution we cannot pay for added border security necessary for the southern border. Last week I issued a statement about the drawbacks of being on a continuing resolution to maritime security if we’re not properly funded. Yesterday I was honored to stand with former Secretaries Ridge and Chertoff while they talked about the importance of a fully-funded Department of Homeland Security.
Today, I am sending a letter to our Congressional leadership outlining the real, concrete impacts to homeland security and public safety in the event of a government shutdown of our department. Today now I also highlight the impact of a shutdown of homeland security or an extension of the continuing resolution on the heroic men and women of state and local law enforcement, emergency managers, first responders, firefighters and their ability to protect and serve the public.
I am pleased to be here with first responders from the Commonwealth of Virginia, including the Virginia state police and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, officials of police, sheriffs, fire departments, emergency management officials from Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax counties including Fairfax Battalion fire chief Chris Schaff. From here in Washington D.C., Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Chief Lamar Greene, Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Chris Geldart and Washington D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Chief Eugene Jones. Representing the International Association of Fire Chiefs, Chief Marc Bashoor of Prince George's County Fire EMS Department. Representing the Major Counties Sheriffs’ Association Sheriff Rich Stanek, Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office in Minnesota. Representing Police Executive Research Forum Executive Director Chuck Wexler and representing the International Association of Chiefs of Police Deputy Executive Director Gwen Boniface. Also, publicly supporting our position is the Fraternal Order of Police. I also appreciate the statement issued yesterday by the Commissioner of the New York City Police Department Bill Bratton about the importance of a fully-funded Department of Homeland Security.
Much of the Department’s mission is fulfilled through grant-making activity at about 2.3 billion dollars a year. Through our grants we assist the people you see on this stage in preventing, responding to, or recovering from, terrorist attacks, major disasters, and other emergencies. For example, when I was at the Super Bowl late January for the security briefing I received just days before the Super Bowl, officials at the operations center pointed out to me that all of the communications and surveillance equipment that I saw was paid for by grants from the Department of Homeland Security. If you look at photographs of the immediate aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, much of the first responder communications equipment, portable radios, fire helmets, high-visibility vests, response vehicles, life-saving equipment and mass causality supplies were things paid for by grants from the Department of Homeland Security. Our Emergency Management Performance Grants contribute 50 percent of salaries of state and local emergency managers in 58 jurisdictions. Our staffing for adequate fire and emergency grants, also known as “SAFER grants,” fund the salaries of over 1,800 firefighters throughout the country in places such as Detroit, Phoenix, Miami-Dade and Jersey City. None of this, because we’re on a continuing resolution, is being funded right now.
This is not just an inside-the-beltway political jousting. A failure to fund the Department of Homeland Security fully has real impacts on public safety and the jobs of people like you see up here on this stage across every reach of this country. Every mayor, governor, police chief, sheriff and police commissioner, fire chief and emergency manager should be concerned about this. Every mayor, governor, police chief commissioner sheriff should be concerned about a failure to fund the Department of Homeland Security. There are just 34 hours left. Time is running out.
Our grants are funded by FEMA, and to provide a little more detail about the impact of the failure to fund the people in this room I’d like to call upon Administrator Craig Fugate. Thanks Craig.
Administrator Craig Fugate: Thank you Secretary.
It’s really hard to describe the impacts because it’s hard to show other than a dollar figure in Washington D.C., a top-line number that is being held up under the CR. The people here represent the reality that disasters happen. It is the local responders, properly prepared, trained, and equipped that make the difference in what oftentimes will be an emergency and not grow to being a disaster.
The ability to prevent and interdict terrorist threats, the ability to manage emergencies at their level. There are events that have been occurring since we have made investments since 9/11 in local response that historically required a much larger federal presence that they’re able to manage with the resources that they have built from this. But like many programs, when people look at dollar figures, they forget this is a perishable capability. You have to continue to train, equip, and maintain the capability we build as a nation. So while most people look at this top-line numbers, they forget it’s the people that are standing in here, that every day when 9-1-1 is called, respond, and that these funds have built capacity and capabilities beyond which we had when 9-11 struck.
That is a perishable commodity.
Delays in funding will begin to erode this capability and begin to erode the needs that communities have to be more self-sufficient with these dollars. So as the Secretary said, this is a timing issue. The longer we delay the funding, the more capability will begin to erode. We’ve spent a lot of money and time to build this - we should not go backwards delaying the funding.
Secretary Johnson: Alright we’ll take a few questions.
Question: Mr. Secretary, yesterday you said that you were confident and optimistic that they were going to be able to come to an agreement. Do you still feel that way today?
Secretary Johnson: I agree things seem to be moving in the right direction, but there’s also a timing issue. There’s just 34 hours left before midnight Friday when funding for our Department runs out. I’m continuing to urge members of Congress to come together as quickly as possible and pass a clean appropriations bill for our Department.
I was up there today, I’m going back to the Hill this afternoon, I was up there most of the day yesterday. I have to be optimistic. I have to be optimistic for our people; I have to be optimistic for the people up here on this stage with me. And so I do believe that Congress will come together and finally fund our Department.
As I said a moment ago it’s not just a matter of funding our Department, it’s a matter of funding the important and heroic work of people like you see up here on this stage. I’m optimistic and I have to be optimistic.
But I’m gonna keep fighting. Alicia?
Question: In the past we’ve heard Doomsday scenarios, with the government shutdown a year and a half ago, the sequester before that, that didn’t pan out. Whether it be line in airports, or security threats at the border, is there a tangible example you can point to where those previous incidents have hindered would it be a security or response you fear will be replicated should this go past...
Secretary Johnson: Well, I’ll give you one example.
First, let me preface this by saying that in my public statements and sessions like this and in my meetings with members of Congress I have endeavored to be factual about the impact of a shutdown, the impact of continuing to be on a continuing resolution. I don’t want to engage in demagoguery, rhetoric, flowery language, I don’t want to overstate things, but we have to be factual.
So in a series of statements like today, I think it’s important for the American public to understand that this is not just an inside the beltway political debate.
If we fail to fund this Department it has consequences well beyond what’s happening in Congress right now, well beyond the political debate. And so I’ve endeavored to be factual and I think I have been.
One of the things that come to mind, Alicia, with your question is in 2013 our Department was shut down for 17 days. We had to furlough a lot of headquarters personnel. There are things that should have been done in those 17 days that we’re not accomplished that we have not been able to get back on track since that period of time.
The other thing I’ll say is that any time you ask people to come to work without pay, even though they may eventually get paid, and they miss a paycheck or two, that creates anxiety within their families. It creates anxiety about the certainty of their jobs, I think a lot of people take that for granted. And so that has a lasting impact in my view.
And so that’s one of the reasons why Craig and I and other senior leaders of the Department have been so forceful about the impacts of a shutdown because it affects our men and women, it affects the people who work every day to protect the homeland, to promote public safety and I think that they deserve a lot better from their political leadership in Washington then the plight that we’re in right now.
Question: Can you explain your optimism when things in the House aren't looking as clear? I know you lobbied the Senate very heavily, but now there's a clean bill that might go through the House. So what’s the optimism there?
Secretary Johnson: Like I said, I’m optimistic because I have to be. And because I believe that most members of Congress when they appreciate, and I think a lot of them do, when they appreciate the consequences of letting funding for homeland security in these challenging times lapse, the consequences to public safety, the consequences to homeland security, the consequences to our counterterrorism, border security, maritime security, aviation security efforts, cybersecurity efforts, that they will come together and figure this out.
Very few people on Capitol Hill in Washington want this debate, very few people want us to be in the situation that we’re in. And for that reason I think, and I hope, that we will find a way out of this. But I’m going to continue to stress every day the importance of funding this Department, the importance of funding the work of the people we see here on this stage.
So I’m optimistic, but not without a fight. And so that’s what we’re doing today.
One more question. Yes, ma’am?
Question: If you could address for a moment some concerns people have with this funding. Um, a federal court in Texas vs. United States has said giving an illegal alien a social security number is not an act of prosecutorial discretion. What specific law gives the President the authority to give a social security number to a foreign national in the country illegally?
Secretary Johnson: Well, that’s a case that’s on appeal right now. We disagree with the district court’s decision, but that’s what appellate courts are for. We’ve appealed the decision, we’re asking for a stay of injunction. We went to the district judge first and the matter will be resolved in a few days. And so that’s in litigation. I believe that the injunction will be reversed in a matter of time.
Okay. Thank you very much. Thanks for attending.
And thank you all very, very much. Appreciate it. Thank you for the work that you do.