The Tar Pit

Monday, February 07, 2005

Cox calls Bush shortchange of Border Patrol "wholly inadequate"

House Homeland Security Chairman Christopher Cox (R-CA) issued the following statement on the Bush administration fiscal year 2006 budget released today:

One of the greatest challenges facing the Department of Homeland Security is the integration of its 22 legacy agencies into a coherent counter-terrorism focused organization that can effectively pursue its mission. The creation of a new Office of Screening Coordination and Operations at DHS -- to consolidate US-VISIT and other border control systems with TSA's work to keep dangerous individuals off of aircraft, out of flight schools, and out from behind the wheel of trucks hauling hazardous materials -- makes sense because each of these operations shares the common goal of identifying and capturing terrorists before they gain access to places and assets that could be exploited for terrorism.

Securing our borders against illegal crossings must be another budget priority. While the President's budget proposes important support for many border security initiatives, some remain badly underfunded. Congress authorized adding 2,000 Border Patrol agents in 2006, but the $37 million in the budget would fund only 210 of these positions. This is wholly inadequate. In addition, Congress authorized hundreds of new immigration enforcement investigators, thousands of new bed spaces in detention facilities, and increases in funding to screen those traveling to the U.S. from overseas -- but the budget falls short here, too.

Meanwhile, President Bush's Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, Admiral James Loy, was busy putting lipstick on the pig:

Question: Last year's intelligence bill called for 2,000 more Border Patrol in 2006 and 10,000 over five years. This has only an increase of 210 Border Patrol. Can you explain why the huge discrepancy between what the intelligence law calls for and what the administration's asking for here?

Acting Secretary Loy:Well, I think it's basically where the reality of the budget request and competing very positive initiatives intersects with goals at the other end of the day, and I can suggest that because of the requirement to recognize the legitimacy of other competing and very important priorities, and the recognition that there are 1,500 new agents already in that process over the course of the last couple of year. And actually, in the way that we have reconfigured the Department in ICE, there are now thousands of special agents available to do what is necessary to be done. So it was simply recognized that the 210 for this year is a reflection of millions of dollars of additional emphasis on that particular corner, and also recognition that we need to balance those things as we go on down the road with other priorities.

The Intelligence Overhaul bill was signed by President Bush into law on December 17th, and calls for 2,000 new Border Patrol agents to be hired not only this year, but in each of the following four years for a total of 10,000 new agents. The President has decided not to honor the legislation he just signed, instead offering a Budget Request for new Border Patrol agents that falls 90% short of the target and that Congressman Cox calls "wholly inadequate."

Get the feathers.