Chairman Joyce, Ranking Member Cuellar, and distinguished Members of the Subcommittee:
On Sunday, I traveled to Rolling Fork, Mississippi to assure the residents there, and others in Mississippi devastated by the tornadoes that had just struck, that our Department will support their recovery in the days, weeks, and months ahead. More than 20 people lost their lives, and many more lost their homes and all they possessed.
On Monday, I spoke with Senators Blackburn and Hagerty, and with Governor Lee and Mayor Cooper, and offered our Department’s support in response to the tragic — the too tragic and senseless murder of children and adults at St. Paul Christian School in Nashville, Tennessee.
Our thoughts, prayers, and support are with all who are suffering today.
Over the past 20 years, the Department has evolved and responded capably to an increasingly dynamic threat landscape. We have done this through the unflinching dedication of the Department's 260,000 public servants, the third largest workforce in the federal government. Every day these heroes work to ensure the safety of Americans in the skies and on the seas, secure our borders, promote lawful trade and travel, provide relief when disaster strikes, advance the security of cyberspace and critical infrastructure, stop cartels from trafficking illegal drugs into our communities, combat human trafficking and online child sexual exploitation, protect our interests in the Arctic and Indo-Pacific, and much more.
The threats and challenges facing the homeland have never been more complex or dynamic. The President’s Fiscal Year 2024 Budget for DHS was crafted to meet these threats and challenges strategically and responsibly, ensuring our Department has the tools it needs to keep our communities safe.
The displacement of people across the region is greater than at any time since World War II. I have visited the Southwest Border approximately 16 times as Secretary to meet with our personnel and to see firsthand the challenges they face and the tools they need to do their jobs. The Fiscal Year 2024 budget proposes the hiring of over 1,400 additional personnel to secure the Southwest Border, including 350 additional Border Patrol agents and 310 additional Border Patrol Processing Coordinators to get more agents back into the field performing their critical law enforcement mission. The budget proposes $535 million in new funds for border technology, $305 million of which is to deploy new technologies and capabilities in our fight against the trafficking of fentanyl through our ports of entry.
The threat environment we face along the Southwest Border is dynamic, and the annual appropriations process does not provide the flexibility to address challenges that often change, sector to sector, month to month. We propose that Congress create a fund that can be spent for specific purposes when certain migrant encounter thresholds are met. This would equip our personnel with the tools they need to meet migration surges if and as they occur, like transportation resources, soft-sided facilities for processing, and grants to support state and local community reception.
The budget will also enable the Department to process the increasing number of asylum cases, address the backlog of applications for immigration benefits, support the Citizenship and Integration Grant Program, and improve refugee processing to meet the goal of admitting up to 125,000 refugees.
Our schools, hospitals, businesses, local governments, and critical infrastructure are increasingly the targets of cyberattacks launched by transnational criminal organizations and hostile nation states, including the PRC, Russia, Iran, and North Korea. This budget invests in personnel, infrastructure, and enhanced tools and services to increase the cybersecurity preparedness and resilience of our networks and critical infrastructure.
We must also continue to build a culture of preparedness so that communities on the frontlines of climate change and increasing extreme weather events are informed, ready, and resilient. This budget provides $20.1 billion for FEMA to assist individuals and state, local, tribal, and territorial partners impacted by major disasters and funds whole-of-community efforts in building climate resilience.
The United States Coast Guard provides critical capabilities and broad authorities to defend our national interests in the Western Hemisphere, the Arctic, and the Indo Pacific. This budget makes strategic investments in the Coast Guard’s fleet of Offshore Patrol Cutters and Polar Security Cutters that will advance our safety, security, and economic prosperity.
Finally, the men and women of DHS who serve our nation are our most important and vital resource. We cannot expect to recruit and retain a world class, diverse workforce if they are not compensated fairly. We are asking for $1.4 billion to honor the promise of pay fairness for our TSA workforce.
This budget will enable the Department to respond to the threats of today and prepare for the threats of tomorrow.
Thank you very much, and I look forward to your questions.