WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, questioned the nominee for Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, Elaine C. Duke, today after public reports showed the Trump Administration planned to cut funds to the Coast Guard and aviation security in order to help fund a wall along the southern border—a project for which no cost–benefit analysis has been performed.
Recent reports have indicated major cuts to the Coast Guard, aviation security, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, while diverting funds to Customs and Border Protection and $1.2 billion for the beginning construction phase of a wall along the southern border. Total cost estimates for the wall have exceeded $20 billion.
After Duke had confirmed that no cost-benefit analysis of the planned wall project had been conducted, McCaskill said, “I know that there is no way a business would embark on a multi-billion dollar project without a cost-benefit in place… Are you aware of any analysis that’s been done that would say it makes more sense to build a wall in places along the border—where even the Border Patrol says they do not want it or need it—while at the same time cutting the Coast Guard budget, which would seriously impair our ability to intercept heroin, which is one of the most deadly problems facing our country.”
McCaskill also expressed her continued concern with Department officials repeatedly declining to provide answers to oversight requests and refusing to appear publicly before the Committee saying, “This complete lack of transparency escalated to the point where [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] refused the Committee’s invitation to appear at a hearing last week. If you are truly committed to transparency, I hope you will agree with me that this is absolutely unacceptable.”
McCaskill noted Duke’s long history of public service including work in both the Barack Obama and George W. Bush Administrations and said she was pleased to hear her commitment to responding to committee inquiries about Department of Homeland Security management and budget priorities.