BREAKING: U.S. Senate Report Reveals Internal Disagreements over Funding Counterterrorism Programs in Administration’s FY 2019 Budget Proposal

After receiving whistleblower document, Democratic staff of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee issues report showing that the White House rejected key counterterrorism elements of the Department of Homeland Security’s budget request

WASHINGTON - The Democratic staff of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee today issued a report detailing the Administration’s intended funding cuts to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) state, local, and national counterterrorism programs based on an FY 2019 budget document DHS received from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which was provided to the Committee by a whistleblower.

“I’m worried that the Office of Management and Budget is overriding what local, state, and national leaders have told me they most need to keep us safe,” McCaskill said. “With recent terrorist attacks in our country and throughout the globe, counterterrorism programs shouldn’t be on the chopping block.”

Federal agencies develop their budgets for the upcoming fiscal year and submit a request to OMB, typically in the fall. OMB then reviews the proposed budget, ensuring it aligns with the President’s priorities, and communicates its funding decisions to the agency through a process referred to as “passback.” At times, OMB provides less money than requested; in other instances it provides more. In late November 2017, a whistleblower provided OMB’s nonpublic “passback” document to the Democratic staff of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The document is titled the Department of Homeland Security Fiscal Year 2019 Budget and Policy Guidance and details OMB guidance from the President to the Department of Homeland Security regarding its FY 2019 budget proposal. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Democrat Staff report examines counterterrorism cuts in the “passback” document, including DHS’s initial FY 2019 budget proposal and OMB’s responsive guidance directing more drastic cuts.

Key findings from the report, Overruled: White House Overrules Department of Homeland Security Budget Requests for Counterterrorism Programs:

  • Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams are multi-disciplinary groups of security officers deployed to various locations to prevent and deter acts of terrorism. Rejecting DHS’s request, OMB instructed DHS to completely eliminate VIPR Teams and cut an additional $27 million for Federal Air Marshals.
  • Denying DHS’s request, OMB ordered DHS to seek $11 million in additional cuts for the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office.
  • The Administration intends to seek $568 million in total cuts to DHS counterterrorism programs from FY 2017 enacted budget levels.

McCaskill has previously emphasized the importance of DHS’s counterterrorism programs. She has repeatedly questioned DHS and other national security officials about potential cuts to the programs during Senate hearings, and a report issued by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Democratic staff earlier this year highlighted the impact of the Administration’s proposed FY 2018 budget cuts.

The report from the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s Democratic staff, led by the staff of Ranking Member Claire McCaskill, is available online HERE.

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