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(WASHINGTON, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), today questioned DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson on the needs of this agency as the committee considers FY2016 appropriations. Shaheen specifically highlighted the need to balance important priorities such as border security, cyber security and addressing the threat of terrorism and natural disasters in the face of difficult budget constraints.

Shaheen was instrumental in securing full year funding for DHS in fiscal year 2015 earlier this year after its budget was threatened over objections to immigration policies.

Video of her remarks are available here.

A text transcript of her remarks is also provided below:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I’m very pleased to join you for this hearing on the budget of the Department of Homeland Security and I’m also pleased that we have the Chair and Ranking Member of the full committee, Senators Cochran and Mikulski, who are with us this afternoon.

Mr. Secretary, welcome.  First, I want to begin by thanking you for your assistance as we wrapped up the 2015 appropriations process, and note that in the first five years of the existence of the Department of Homeland Security you received an annual appropriation at the beginning of each fiscal year.  In 2015, you were the last Federal agency to receive a full appropriation.  And I appreciate that this costly delay was due to a disagreement over the Administration’s immigration enforcement priorities and I firmly believe that the Federal court system is the appropriate venue to resolve this issue.  And, because the courts are dealing with this case as we speak, I hope that we will not have that interfere with the ability to get a budget for the Department this year. 

CBO scored the net discretionary budget request for the Department of Homeland Security for fiscal year 2016 at $41.4 billion.  Excluding the $6.7 billion disaster cap adjustment and $160 million in Coast Guard Overseas Contingency funding, this represents a $1.7 billion increase, or about 4 percent, over fiscal year 2015.

Your budget for 2016 emphasizes border security, immigration enforcement, Secret Service protection activities, cybersecurity, emergency communications, and resilience programs.  However, these priorities seem to come at the expense of funding for the Coast Guard recapitalization and first responder grants, which are both cut below fiscal year 2015 levels. 

If the Committee is forced to work within the constraints of the current discretionary budget cap, which essentially restricts us to the 2015 funding level, I think we will be hard-pressed to fund all of these priorities in addition to addressing the reductions that I have some concerns about.

As Senator Hoeven mentioned, he and I had the opportunity to spend four enlightening days looking at border security efforts and immigration enforcement efforts along the Southwest border with Texas and I won’t go into it because I’ve had a chance to speak with you and share with you my views on that trip as we came away. But I would just say that I was very impressed with the professionalism of the people who work for the department of homeland security and with their effort to work together to get out of the silos that we have too often worked in in the Federal government and to work not only cooperatively with each other but with other local law enforcement agencies and authorities on both sides of the border.

Now your agency also protects us from a wide variety of threats originating at home and coming from abroad.  And we recently observed the two-year anniversary of the Boston marathon bombing – an attack that struck very close to home for me and to others of us from New England.  Coupling that somber anniversary with the influx of foreign fighters into Syria and attempts by ISIS and AQAP to inspire attacks against the U.S., and I am reminded that we must remain ever-vigilant against their hateful ideology. 

As we speak, cyber-criminals are conducting a relentless assault against government, corporate and personal computer networks.  And your budget seeks to enhance information sharing and strengthen systems to detect and prevent these intrusions. Those are increases that I wholeheartedly support, because this threat is ever evolving and growing.

And finally, as we recover from devastating tornadoes that ravaged the Midwest and prepare for the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season, we are reminded of the deadly threat that nature itself can pose.  We just saw that on full display in Nepal this past weekend and I just want to commend the Department for the Search and Rescue Teams are helping with that recovery.     

So Mr. Secretary, I look forward to your testimony and to the discussion today and appreciate your leadership and your commitment to tackle the diverse and prolific set of homeland security challenges head on. Thank you.