Chairman Peters, Ranking Member Paul, and distinguished Members of the Committee:
Last month we marked the 20th anniversary of the Department’s creation, which brought together different agencies from across the Federal Government in a determined effort to safeguard the United States against foreign terrorism in the wake of the devastation wrought on September 11, 2001.
Over the past 20 years, the challenges facing the homeland have grown increasingly dynamic and complex. The Department’s 260,000 public servants meet these challenges with unflinching dedication to mission. With acts of targeted violence occurring more and more frequently, we are sharing with local communities the best practice models of detection and intervention when an individual is exhibiting signs of moving towards violence. We are on the ground assisting communities impacted by increasingly severe and frequent extreme weather events. We are attacking cartels and smugglers through new campaigns and enforcement surges – efforts that have resulted in the arrests of more than 9,100 smugglers, the disruption of over 9,000 human smuggling operations, and record seizures of fentanyl at our ports of entry. We are rescuing victims of human trafficking and child exploitation and bringing perpetrators of these heinous crimes to justice – we made 3,655 human trafficking arrests last fiscal year alone. We are defending networks and our hospitals, schools, and electric grids from wide-ranging cyberattacks. We are on patrol in the Arctic and in the Western Pacific to protect our interests. This is just a snapshot of the work our extraordinary personnel do every day to keep the homeland safe.
The evolving set of challenges we face requires a modernized budget, and the President’s Fiscal Year 2024 Budget for DHS provides the Department with the resources it needs to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the threats of today and tomorrow.
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 environment across 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 critical infrastructure is increasingly the target of cyberattacks launched by transnational criminal organizations and hostile nation states, including the People’s Republic of China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea. This budget invests in personnel, infrastructure, and enhanced tools and services to increase our cybersecurity preparedness and resilience. We look forward to working with the Committee this year to codify our Cyber Safety Review Board in law to ensure it has the authorities necessary to be effective.
We must also continue to build a culture of preparedness so that communities that face increasing extreme weather events are 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 efforts to build climate resilience.
The United States Coast Guard provides critical capabilities 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 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 to 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.