Major Takeaways from the President’s FY 2015 Budget Request for DHS
March 13, 2014
On March 4, 2014, President Obama submitted his budget request to Congress for fiscal year (FY) 2015. The request reflects the continued trend of reduced funding for many parts of the government, including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The FY 2015 budget request includes an approximately 2.7 percent, or a more than $1 billion, reduction in DHS funding from the FY 2014 enacted levels.
Acknowledging shifts in threats and resource limitations, the president’s proposed budget offers key takeaways in three areas of homeland security: cybersecurity, border control and immigration, and efficient, risk-based security. The suggested changes in these sectors paint an encouraging picture of DHS’s adaptability to a limited budget but also open the door for potential pushback from both sides of the aisle.
Cyber attacks represent a major threat to homeland security. Recently, DHS top leaders, the White House , and Congress have all expressed concern over cybersecurity and acknowledged DHS’s leading role in protecting federal and civilian networks and critical infrastructure. This budget request recognizes that role and the continued priority shift to cyber by requesting approximately $1.25 billion for cybersecurity activities, an increase from the $792 million enacted in the 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act. Given the increased threat of cyber attacks, funding for these activities may continue to increase.
The Department of Defense (DoD) request includes $5.1 billion, or about four times the DHS request, to support cyber operations. However, this difference does not reflect an underestimation of the threat by DHS. Rather, it reveals the cyber enterprise’s size and scope and the need for interagency cooperation and coordination. The DHS request reflects this need through proposed funding for a Federal Cyber Campus that would integrate incident responses of various agencies. The effectiveness of these initiatives will be vital in fulfilling cyber capability requirements outlined by Congress and the executive branch to defend against an evolving threat.
Border Control and Immigration
The proposed changes to border control and immigration activities represent minor tweaks around the edges of the broader border and immigration discussion. The budget proposal indicates that no major changes will take place until Congress passes comprehensive reforms. By adding 2,000 Customs and Border Protection Officers (CBPOs), who staff the 329 U.S. ports of entry, DHS seeks to close the current gap in meeting the demand of passenger and cargo inspections. DHS believes that this addition could help grow the economy by decreasing wait times on trade and travel and streamlining inspection procedures. Additionally, the budget request includes funding for the expansion of the Employment Eligibility Verification System, E-Verify, which allows employers to determine a potential employee’s eligibility to legally work in the United States by cross-referencing I-9 form information with DHS and other federal databases.
While important, these improvements do not begin to approach the scale of changes proposed by the White House and the Senate bill that passed last summer. Given the fact that the House of Representatives has not considered the Senate bill, an uncertain future lies ahead for comprehensive immigration reform. The DHS budget request reflects this uncertainty and illustrates that any major changes will only follow congressional action.
Efficient, Risk-based Security
The budget request illustrates a common theme of moving toward efficiency and risk-based approaches to homeland security. In an effort to cope with potential limited resources, DHS proposes a number of efforts to eliminate duplicative programs and focus on high-risk threats. DHS looks to consolidate many of its overlapping grant programs into the National Preparedness Grant Program, which could help simplify the complex process of requesting and distributing funds. However, DHS already proposed this consolidation in its FY 2013 budget request; the House and Senate defeated the proposal after it received major pushback from local officials in two congressional hearings.
The movement to risk-based security also includes the proposal to focus Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) resources on the detention and removal of criminal aliens, who pose a threat to national security or public safety. Additionally, DHS seeks to increase efficiencies in the Transportation Security Administration screening process by expanding its Pre-Check program and focusing resources on high-risk passengers.
These efficiency efforts have received praise as well as criticism from members of Congress. Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, lauded the Administration for its “decision to make targeted investments” to leverage limited DHS resources. Alternatively, Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX), Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, criticized the budget request for decreasing funds for ICE and reducing the capacity of detention facilities, which he believes will make Americans less safe. Since Congress decides the final level of funding for all departments and agencies, DHS must make its case that these approaches effectively address the limitation of resources and growth of homeland threats by simultaneously increasing efficiency and security.
Garrett Riba is a research intern with the CSIS Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Program. Stephanie Sanok Kostro is acting director of the Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C.
Commentary is produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a private, tax-exempt institution focusing on international public policy issues. Its research is nonpartisan and nonproprietary. CSIS does not take specific policy positions. Accordingly, all views, positions, and conclusions expressed in this publication should be understood to be solely those of the author(s).
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