BREAKING: U.S. Senate Reports Reveal Internal Disagreements over Technology and Border Wall Funding, Personnel Priorities in Administration’s FY 2019 Budget Proposal

After receiving whistleblower document, Democratic staff of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee issue two additional reports on White House budget guidance that would cut Department of Homeland Security priorities, including critical technology funding, to pay for border wall and would deny pay raises for law enforcement

WASHINGTON – The Democratic staff of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee today issued two reports detailing how the White House rejected Department of Homeland Security (DHS) priorities—including border security technology—in order to pay for a border wall and how the White House directed DHS to deny requested pay raises for DHS law enforcement officials in FY 2019. The reports are 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. Yesterday, the Committee published details on the Administration’s proposed cuts to counterterrorism programs based on the same whistleblower document.

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.

Key Findings: Overruled: White House Overrules Department of Homeland Security Budget Request on Border Security Priorities:

  • OMB instructed DHS to seek $1.6 billion – $700 million more than the Department’s original budget request – for border wall construction in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.
  • OMB instructed DHS to decrease its funding request for specific border security technology and equipment initiatives by approximately $175 million.  
  • Despite its assertion that “surveillance in the [Rio Grande Valley] Sector is a continued priority,” OMB instructed DHS to request only $43.7 million for Remote Video Surveillance Systems (RVSS) – a $44.6 million reduction to the Department’s original request, constituting a cut of over 50%. OMB acknowledged that reductions to RVSS technology are necessary “to offset the costs of Presidential priorities not funded in the DHS request.”

Key Findings: Overruled: White House Overrules Department of Homeland Security Budget Request on Border Security Personnel:

  • OMB rejected DHS’s request for pay raises for all civilian DHS law enforcement officers, despite challenges the agency has faced to fill current shortages. Additionally, OMB seeks a pay freeze for all federal civilian employees.
  • While ports of entry—staffed by CBP Officers—are short thousands of officers, OMB did not accept DHS’s proposed increase in funding for CBP Officers.
  • OMB instructed DHS to hire 1,000 more new Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agents than DHS actually requested, raising the total number of new law enforcement personnel ICE must hire in FY 2019 from 1,000 to 2,000.

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

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