The following story appeared in FAIR’s February 27 Legislative Update. To subscribe to FAIR’s Legislative Update click here.

On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security held a hearing on President Obama’s proposed budget cuts to Customs and Border Protection (CBP), included in the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) budget proposal for FY2013.

CBP’s budget request equals nearly $12 billion, a two percent increase over the President’s FY2012 request for the agency. (See DHS FY2013 Budget in Brief, pp. 25, 81)

In spite of this increase, the Administration has proposed cuts to several key programs. (Id. at p. 85) These include:

* $68.2 million decrease in funding for air and marine operations and procurements
* $7.1 million reduction in air and marine staff
* $6 million decrease in border security inspections and trade facilitation between points of entry
* $6.7 million decrease in automation technology modernization
* $72.9 million decrease in border security fencing, infrastructure, and technology

(Id.) Both Republicans and Democrats on the Subcommittee raised concerns that these proposed reductions could weaken CBP programs and put border security in jeopardy.

Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt (R-AL) was dismayed that DHS’ proposed budget rollbacks would dilute Congress’ increased investments in border protection over the last several years. Specifically, he lamented the “unacceptable” cuts to air and marine operations and procurement at a time when “persistent surveillance is one of the biggest remaining gaps” in border security. “Bottom line,” he said, “this budget puts the investments we’ve made in border security over the years at risk.” (Rep. Aderholt Opening Statement, Feb. 29, 2012)

Ranking Member David Price (D-NC) expressed similar concerns, saying, “This committee allocated significant resources under my tenure as chairman to provide adequate support staff to CBP ensuring front line personnel were not spending their time performing administrative functions behind desks. This budget, I’m afraid, would erase many of those gains.” (Bloomberg Government Transcript, Feb. 29, 2012)

During his testimony to the subcommittee, U.S. Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher gave the Obama Administration credit for increases in security along the Southwest border, including the creation of a joint field base in Arizona, as well as an increase of border troops to more than 21,000. (Michael Fisher Opening Statement, Feb. 29, 2012) Much of these increases, however, stemmed from supplemental appropriations legislation passed by Congress in August of 2010, which granted Customs and Border Protection an additional $254 million. (See P.L. 111-230; see also FAIR Legislative Update, Aug. 16, 2010)

Additional statements made by Chief Fisher contradict his initial testimony that the Obama Administration supports sustaining a strong presence at the border. Fisher reported that on the day following the hearing, the Administration would begin withdrawing 900 National Guard troops from the Southwest border, leaving only 300 Guard troops on the ground. (Bloomberg Government Transcript, Feb. 29, 2012; see FAIR Legislative Update, Dec. 19, 2011)