tv Politics Public Policy Today CSPAN March 30, 2015 1:00pm-3:01pm EDT
disappointment in budget submissions from dhs that were political in nature, not reflective of the security needs of the country and chock full of budget gimmicks that made our job on the appropriations committee needlessly difficult with a few exceptions that i will highlight later. i am happy to say that i cannot make those criticisms about this budget submission after cbo scoring. the requests has a $1.7 billion increase of active levels, it includes active motions including a 98.8 million increase to support 2,270 border patrol agents, and essentially level funding for coast guard operations.
request for i.c.e. includes sufficient funds for the 34,040 detention beds required under law, and you've done away with many of the unauthorized fees the department previously proposed to offset critical security spending. while this budget submission is indeed a vast improvement over those we've seen in the past, it does not mean that i am left without concerns. first, and probably most important, i question whether this request constitutes a realistic funding level. unfortunately, the president's budget request governmentwide is billions of dollars above the level of our committee that we will ultimately be allocated to support spending. the president knows our doa here in congress. that's not responsible
budgeting. and i question whether your recommended level is possible given all of the domestic priorities at stake. second, the president's executive order on immigration remains, as the chairman has said, the elephant in the room. the president's unilateral action demonstrates intentional disregard for the legislative authority of the congress under the constitution jeopardizes the ability of this committee to move forward with appropriations for the department, poisons the well for any meaningful immigration reform package and even jeopardizes your very well-intentioned agenda to better unify dhs' practices and policies. you've unfortunately become the poster child for this ill-thought-out immigration policy because your department is charged with implementing it.
mr. secretary, there are separation of powers in this country. and you simply cannot expect the congress to stand idly by when the president circumvents this entire branch of government. mr. secretary, i've been involved with funding for this department since it started. actually, before it started. and we take seriously our responsibilities to support our men and women on the front lines as they protect our homeland. because of the importance of the dhs mission to our country's security, we on both sides of the aisle on the appropriations committee have worked earnestly to cast politics aside and focus on the critical task at hand. it's supremely disappointing to me that the president's egregious circumvention of congress has shifted the
conversation away from where it ought to be, on keeping this country safe from threats, domestic and foreign. and making sure the men and women who protect us all stay safe. we look forward to hearing your testimony. we welcome you to the hill, sir. i yield. >> thank you, mr. rogers. it's now my pleasure to recognize ms. lowey for an opening statement. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and i'd like to thank chairman carter, ranking member roybal-allard, for holding this here today and join them in welcoming you, secretary johnson. thank you for joining us. the department of homeland security is tasked with the mission of securing our nation from consistent threat. and this is no easy feat. to keep us safe, 16 different agencies and offices have to operate on a cohesive and cooperative basis. i do hope that today, and for
the next few weeks and months, we can focus on that mission, get to work on a comprehensive immigration bill. let's do it, let's do it now. and while we're focusing on homeland security, let's focus like a laser on the important work that you have ahead. last week at the louis armstrong new orleans international airport, a man attacked tsa agents with wasp spray and a machete after being questioned about his boarding pass. these are the risks tsa agents take every day to keep us safe. on any given day, dhs personnel will process nearly 1 million travelers entering the u.s., provide 3.7 million in federal disaster grants to individuals and households, patrol 3.4 million square miles of u.s.
waterways, conducting 54 search and rescue missions, and seize approximately $300,000 in undetected or listed currency. yet last month, republicans took the department of homeland security to the brink of a shutdown. secretary johnson, despite what your department accomplishes, for more than five months, you were forced to operate under a continuing resolution instead of having a full year funding bill. i'm very pleased that eventually we passed a clean bill, fully funding dhs, and it is my hope we will move forward on a bipartisan basis and not hold the nation's security hostage over partisan games. the fy-16 request is $41.2
billion in net discretionary budget authority, a 3.8 increase from fy-15. this includes 11.2 billion for fema with 6.7 billion for the disaster relief fund cap adjustment. it also includes 8.183 million for cybersecurity advancements, a 65.1 million increase from fy-15. i was particularly pleased to see that given the growing threat and the importance of our focusing like a laser on the cyber threat. i just want to mention one other thing in closing. while it's still too early to know what actually occurred, the chief french prosecutor handling the investigation said today that the germanwings plane was deliberately crashed by the
co-pilot.p#0÷ this should be a reminder that as global threats persist, dhs' mission must remain the same, keep us safe. now more than ever, we must support the department in fulfilling this most essential, yet complex goal. i look forward to a productive discussion this morning, and thank you very much. >> thank you, ms. lowey. at this time, mr. secretary, we're going to recognize you and ask if you could to summarize what you've presented in five minutes if possible, and we will have your entire testimony entered into the record. at this time i recognize you. >> thank you, chairman carter, chairman rogers, ranking member roybal-allard, congresswoman lowey, other members of the committee, nice to see you again.
let me begin by saying that you do have my full statement, and i'll just say a few things in my five minutes. first of all, as sincerely as i can, i want to thank the members of this committee who i know worked very hard to get us a full year appropriation for fy-15 and the leadership that you showed to get us there. the possibility of a shutdown of my department was very personal to me. i know people in our department who would have been affected very dramatically had we gone into shutdown. for example, there is a person in our administration who is in stage 4 cancer who depended upon her paycheck to make her co-payments for her cancer treatment. i was going to have to furlough her if we went into shutdown. and so on behalf of the 225,000 men and women of my department, thank you for your leadership in
getting us a full year appropriation. like members of this committee, i am very pleased by our fy-16 budget submission of 41.2 billion net discretionary spending. i think it meets our vital homeland security missions. for me, counterterrorism remains our top priority. it's the reason this department was founded. we still live in a dangerous world. i believe the global terrorist threat has evolved to a new phase, and it is more complex and harder to detect. it relies more on independent actors, smaller scale attacks, very effective use of the internet and actors who could strike with little or no notice in the homeland as we have seen demonstrated in other parts of the world. there is a large threat still surrounding aviation security.
i'm pleased that this submission funds our key aviation security priorities. wave of the future, we need to partner with our key counterterrorism allies abroad and in the interagency on tracking individuals of suspicion in international travel. i believe that is important. i believe we need to strengthen the security of the visa waiver program in which 38 of our allies are participants. i believe we need to ramp up countering bioextremism efforts at home. i personally participate in those efforts. cybersecurity is a concern of mine in our department. border security, i'm pleased that total apprehensions on the southern border this fiscal year are down month to month about 20% from where they were this time last year, unaccompanied
children are down about 40% less than they were this time last year. still, there is a lot more work to do. i believe we can build a stronger border. this submission funds new technology for the border, which our border patrol personnel tell me we need.8úwkñ i am pleased that this submission funds those things. chairman, you and i have discussed the issue of bonding out of those convicted of crime who are in deportation proceedings. in response to questions i'm happy to talk to you about the things we've done to tighten up that process, including notification to local law enforcement when that happened. we're recapitalizing the coast guard, as you know. this budget is part of that.
we're funding the enhancements to the secret service that the independent panel has recommended, and has been noted here, we're doing a number of things to reform the way in which we manage ourselves and conduct business. we have our unity of effort initiative which has led to greater efficiencies in the department. we've filled all the vacancies, almost all the vacancies. we will announce soon a new president's nominee for tsa administrator, who is in vetting now. we're doing things to improve the morale within the department, and as you noted, we are working to get off the gao high-risk list. gao has noted that dhs a model for government agencies and their efforts to get off the list. i've also note that we've received many compliments of our enhanced notes to congress despite committees and subcommittees who have oversight over us. so gentlemen, chairmen, i believe we're moving in the right direction in our homeland key priorities and the manner in which we conduct business. i'm happy to respond to your questions here this morning.
>> thank you very much, secretary. you more or less hit on an issue i was going to bring up right now. my first question is dhs is suffering from significant backlog of vacancies, cbpis, mmpd secret service. for example, only 700 of the 2,000 cbp officers in fy-14 are on board. in se many secret service officers are maxed out on overtime just because there just ant enough staff. high attrition outpasses hiring. officers responsible for infrastructure protection and cybersecurity are almost 20% below the level funded for personnel. i'm worried about the operational components and that
they're spread too thin. we're putting the department's mission at risk. furthermore, i am extremely concerned with what is happening to the hundreds of millions of dollars which congress appropriated for staffing while the people are not actually on board. what are the causes for the hiring lags? what is the average hiring time frame for law enforcement officers at dhs, and how does this compare with other federal organizations like the fbi? does the current hiring process need to be changed, and if so, how? are there impediments that delay the process? >> chairman, first of all, the new leadership team that i have at dhs is very focused on staffing at lower levels. the issue of the customs personnel that you referred to, you're correct that we are authorized to go up to an additional 2,000 in customs
personnel. we're at about 700 now. i would attribute that to two reasons. one, an issue with getting enough personnel to conduct the lie detector test. second, we had an issue with our contractor that conducts background checks. the contractor was the subject of a cyberintrusion, a major cyber intrusion which caused a huge backlog for us and other agencies of government. notwithstanding that, we are aggressively moving forward in filling the vacancies that exist throughout the components that you mentioned. this is a priority of mine, it's a priority of the leaders. i will get back to you for the record on the average wait time to get the law enforcement positions filled and how that compares to other agencies. be happy to do that, sir. but it's something we are aggressively moving forward on. >> i'd appreciate that, because we're looking at these numbers.
the cbp is obviously one that flashes because that was a big issue at our airports and even on our border crossings. i had people in my office yesterday talking about that. happy we've got them. want to know where they are. so those kinds of questions. in addition, 750 vacancies within the border patrol 200 in the secret service, 500 in mppd, 200 in i.c.e. all of this is fully funded. i think that's a real concern for us, and the question becomes, if we're not filling those positions but we funded those positions, what's happening to the money that was funded for personnel and how is it being spent? and if you've got information about that, i would appreciate you getting us something on that.
>> sure. >> my second question has to do with something i seem to be having to talk about every day with my three subcommittees. i've got cybersecurity and i join you and chairman mccall that we've got a major cybersecurity responsibility in this department. and the possibility of a cybersecurity breach at certain levels in this country could be catastrophic. what's the impact of the mppd cyber program if we are forced to cut programs to last year's level due to the defense function physical constraints, meaning a reduction of up to 100 million below the request? would you prioritize infrastructure protection programs ahead of cyber? >> well, that would be hard to do.
as you know, this nation is subject on an hourly basis to cyberintrusions. i read about them virtually every day. so our funding request includes a large amount for our einstein system to secure the dot.gov world and to enhance in many respects our end kick facility which we use to interface with the dot.com world. this is a major, major priority of mine. i'm pleased there's legislation in congress that will likely move forward on a bipartisan basis to codify the role of dhs dealing with the private sector, and i believe we need to also move out in enhancing our hiring of our personnel. we got good legislation last year to enhance our ability to hire key personnel.
i'm personally recruiting a number of top cybersecurity experts for our department right now, making phone calls myself to bring in some good cybersecurity leaders from the private sector. i'm addressing the rsa conference in california next month, something like 20,000 cyber experts. they asked me to be their keynote speaker. i intend to do that and take the opportunity to build trust and partnerships with the private sector. this has to be a joint effort between us and the private sector. there is something like 800 million in our request for cybersecurity. i think it is key that we have that level of funding. i also believe that we need that level of funding for our cybersecurity law enforcement efforts. secret service itself has a lot of cybersecurity expertise in this area which we need to continue to support. last month, for example, we brought to justice a major alleged cyber criminal from, i believe, russian origin.
he was extradited from holland. he was arraigned in federal court in new jersey. he was part of a ring that was stealing millions in credit card information from individuals. that was a case built by the secret service. they were the lead agency. so we need to continue to fund our cybersecurity law enforcement efforts as well. so we're moving in the right direction, but there is a lot of work to do. >> i also mirror your concerns, and in discussing with the private sector what we are asking them to do, and i find i raised this issue a couple times last week because i've had to talk about cyber a lot. right now our position in this country is a defensive position. although we have offensive capabilities at the governmental level, our position is basically
defense. we are defending ourselves from attacks. and we're asking our some large and some small businesses, basically saying, you know, we can't defend everybody, so you have to build your own defense. we're going to be having these little pods of defense all over the country, and another one of our challenges is being sure that they know how to play the game so we don't end up accidentally with somebody getting so mad because they got attacked that they counterattack. it's kind of a funny thing to have to think about, but the reality is there. and some of the people who have real talent, like microsoft or dell or some other people that are out there, could make a pretty good counterattack. so that's a real challenge for you because you've got to help challenge these people, and i guess i'm just asking you to comment on the private sector relationship and how we're
making that actually work. >> three observations. one, you're correct that some sectors of the private world are way more sophisticated than others. the financial services sector is very, very good at cybersecurity. there are others in the supply chain, there are smaller businesses that are not and need to come a far way and are most in need of dhs' help. they're all reliant upon the government for information sharing so that they get the larger picture. the other thing i've observed over the last 15 months in office is even among the most sophisticated company, if an individual employee is vulnerable to an act of spearfishing, there's the intrusion right there. if the individual employee decides to open that e-mail with
the attachment from a source he doesn't recognize, that can lead to a major, major intrusion. i've seen that even in the most sophisticated government agencies and in the private sector. the other thing that i think is very important in terms of an effective partnership with the government is liability protection. liability protection, if a private actor shares a cyberthreat indicator with dhs, that's something we support doing, providing liability protection for those who share cyberthreat indicator information with us as a carrot and an inducement for information sharing. so we wrestled with that issue for a while, and i'm glad to know the administration supports it, and i believe many in congress support it as well. i think that's key to our cybersecurity legislation efforts. >> i, too, support liability
protection. at this time i'll yield to my colleague, ms. roybal-allard. >> i want to follow up on the cybersecurity issue, because as you know, it has significant presence in my state of california. recently, i had the opportunity to talk with many of those companies from the silicon valley to get their perspective on the cybersecurity approach. what i took from those conversations is that there is definitely a lot of work that still needs to be done, especially in two areas. first, in convincing them to adopt good cybersecurity practices which could address at least 95% of the problem, and liability protections as you mentioned. cybersecurity is very, very
expensive, and with regards to privacy and liability, they also expressed an uneasiness and a lack of trust of how information would be used by the government. are you satisfied, first of all, towards this effort that the office of cybersecurity and communications has the resources that it needs to fulfill its mission and that it's using the right approach to appropriate the right information flow of the government and private sector and not the other way around? also if you could also address how will the president's recent executive order on promoting private sector cybersecurity information sharing, how will that change things? >> a couple of things. i think that the key to
effective cybersecurity partnerships with the government and the private sector is building trust and a level of familiarity with the private sector. so i spend a fair amount of time interfacing with the same kind of companies you just referred to. in silicon valley, wall street, elsewhere, i've spoken to ceos in the financial services sector in silicon valley and so forth, so building trust, recruiting government officials from those industries also so that they have familiar faces that they're working with in government is key. as i mentioned a moment ago, i believe that liability protection for sharing information with the government is key. in my private life, i'm a corporate lawyer. i know how boards of directors think, so i believe liability
protection for information sharing is also key. the executive order the president signed in february will go a long way toward information sharing in that we are encouraging the use of information sharing private actors. isao is the acronym, i-s-a-o. we're encouraging them to act as portals of sharing. it doesn't have to be only the government with whom we share information for the purpose of cybersecurity.$j,sñ so i think those things are key in the answer to your question. >> how far can we go with the private sector on cybersecurity without new liability protection legislation? what are the limits? >> i think without liability protection, that is a significant obstacle. and i think that if we are to make significant advances here,
some form of liability protection provided by congress is appropriate. and so i'm a big proponent of that. >> on another subject, last november you issued a memo directing the implementation of the priority enforcement program which took the place of secure communities. can you reiterate the impetus for establishing the program and what the status and timeline are for fully implementing this new program? >> there are, as i understand it, something like 122 jurisdictions around this country that have enacted limitations through acts of city council's county commissions' executive orders placing limitations on their cooperation with our immigration enforcement personnel. i think that is bad for public safety. and so we eliminated the secure committees program which had
become politically antisocial and replaced it with the new program. the new program replaces detainers with requests for notification which i hope solves the legal issue that is arising in litigation, and we're indicating a defined list of priorities, a defined list of criminal offenses for which we will seek a transfer of somebody from a state or county or local jail so that we remove the controversy there. overall, i think it's key that we do a better job of focusing our resources and getting at undocumenteds who have been convicted of crimes who are in jails. there are these huge obstacles that have to be eliminated and it requires a partnership. so the leader of i.c.e., the leader of cbp and i are on a campaign around the country now to engage mayors, city councils, county commissioners to talk to
them about the new program that we put in place so that they will come off of the barriers and limitations that they have imposed on their ability to cooperate with us. beginning next week, i'm going out to meet with major city mayors. i've been talking to mayors' conferences and government conferences about this. now i'm going jurisdiction to jurisdiction to say, we've got this new program, please come off the limitations. because it is an inhibitor to go after the real criminals. s it is a real inhibitor. >> are you surprised that the i.c.e. personnel fully understand the issue of last november and they're following that guidance with respect to the issues of detainers and request for notifications? and do you think that state and local jurisdictions will be more willing to cooperate with these notifications? >> the latter question first, i hope and expect that state and local jurisdictions will be more
willing to cooperate with us. i think that the learning and the training with regard to our new priorities is a work in progress. i had some immigration reform groups into my office last week to talk about that issue. i heard some concerns, and we're working with our ice personnel to make sure they understand the new guidance. >> there are some suggestions recently that congress could enact a law making it mandatory for state and local jurisdictions to act on detainers from ice aside from the fact that many state and local jurisdictions would oppose such a requirement. what is your thinking of that and also the constitutionality of it as opposed to something that could be required by law? >> i think that would be counterproductive. first of all, i think there are
constitutional issues with a federal requirement that a local sheriff or a police chief detain somebody in their jails. i also think that we would get a lot of pushback on that and it would be counterproductive to our efforts. it would be a step back. i want to encourage these people to cooperate with us and not impose that on them. i think it would be very controversial if we did that. >> mr. rogers. >> mr. secretary, at a time when the budget for other dhs components is going up, coast guard budget would be reduced, the operations part, by 3%, acquisitions by 17%.
the coast guard budget reduced by $238 million from fiscal '15. at a time when, due to the policy changes with cuba and the caribbean we're seeing a higher need for cutters to interject people fleeing cuba, for example, the drug trade continues to thrive in the caribbean. we had a discussion yesterday on this subcommittee with admiral zoocum, a commandant of the coast guard, who says he's lucky now to interject 20% of the drug crowd coming through the caribbean. i'm puzzled why we're proposing substantial cutbacks in operations, and more importantly, acquisitions up by 17% when we need more cutters out there. what can you say about it? >> well, as you know, chairman, we're in the midst of a
recapitalization of the coast guard right now. we've just completed the eighth national security cutter. this request asks for six more fast response cutters to get us to 38 of the 58 we say we need. and we're about to -- i'm about to receive an affordability study on the medium-sized cutter, the offshore patrol cutter. so we're moving in the direction of revamping that whole fleet. the reason the top line is less is because with the new fleet is greater efficiency in terms of personnel. it requires fewer people to run -- to man the new fleet. the other thing i'll say about cuba, we saw a brief spike in migration in december. hard to know whether it was in reaction to the president's statement or not, but the coast guard did respond very aggressively to that and dealt with it, and the numbers have gone back down again with regard to the migrant flow in that part of the world, in that part of florida.
the basic answer to your question, because i've asked the same question, why does the top line look smaller despite its needs? it's about less help needed with the new fleet. >> i beg to differ with you about that, but i think we are shortchanging a very important part of homeland security when we do not meet the needs of the coast guard. secondly and quickly, secret service. we've had numerous incidents now over a couple of years of drunkenness agents on duty and other misconduct including the latest example of the incident at the 15th street gate. that agency needs discipline. we all have the highest of
regard and respect for the secret service. however, some agents are tarnishing that image. it needs to be cleaned up. the director has referred the latest incident of the director of homeland security to investigate. i know that you have certain things you have to wait for because of the ig has jurisdiction to investigate. however, the leadership of the agency and i have the highest regard for mr. clancy as an agent, but i think the agency needs an outside tough administrator, director. what's your opinion about all that? >> first of all you're correct the march 4th incident is under investigation. what i know about that incident so far and the facts are not all in yet but what i know about that incident makes me very upset, especially given the
prior string of incidents. i have seen the videotape of what happened. ooifd personally been to the south easter gate to look over the scene, look at the orange barrel that was moved out of the way. . and it up sets me. i have a lot of confidence in joe clancy to deal with the matters of discipline and instilling discipline in his rank and file. you're correct that the independent panel recommended an outsider. we had joe in place as an acting, to his credit came out of retirement, came back to the secret service. an agency he loves to help clean this organization up. and while he was acting, he made some really tough personnel choices and changes in the senior levels of people he had
known for years. so that impressed me and the president as someone who had the ability to think independently and make hard choices so we have appointed director clancy to be the permanent director. in addition we are creating the position of chief operating officer of the secret service. for that job i want to see us and we are engaging in far and wide job search for somebody who has the ability and experience to address a lot of things the independent panel identified, the ability to put together a budget, the ability to look outside the agency for the latest developments in technology. and so the newly created co organization position which will be at the deputy director level is intended for somebody who will have the outsider's perspective to be value added to that agency.
it is in many respects an insular thinking agency. so we need to bring in the best practices in terms of how we manage that organization but in terms of incidents like march 4 i have a lot of confidence in joe to straighten the organization out. change does not happen overnight. it's very, very important this its mission and i think joe clancy is the right person to get us there. >> well he didn't know about this for fay days. >> that's true. which meant i didn't know about it for five days plus. >> and found out about it he said, through an e-mail rather than the chain of command. that concerns me a lot, that the agency needs discipline and it needs an outsider in some position there to be sure that we're not jeopardizing the
president's life taking care of people who have been our friends for years within the service. and that smacks to me that that may have happened. so mr. secretary, we're looking to you to perform in the highest standards by which it's been associated for all these years. we must discipline that agency and make it work like it's supposed to. the importance of the job they have to protect the life of the president of the united states, among other things, demands remedy. thank you. >> i couldn't agree more, sir. >> thank you, mr. chairman. ms. lowey, we have five -- well six minutes, call it six minutes, until votes. i know you've got a busy schedule. you've got a bunch of these
things to go to. i'm going to go ahead and go to you. >> i'll talk fast. >> mr. fleischman is going to come back and take the chair. continue the hearing while the others vote? >> how many have voted over there? >> they've gone. i'm still here with you. >> okay. just a question about fema. they passed authorization that authorized program like state homeland security program and the port and security grand programs. we did this because we know our communities, know how important it is know how importance the threatses they face are. we want to be sure our responders have every tool available to detect, to prevent, and to respond to acts of terrorism. net the. president's fiscal year 2016
budget proposes to consulate the four major state and local programs into a single pot, even though congress has not authorized doing so. under the proposed national preparedness grant program, my first question is what guarantees can the department provide that important grant fund such as this program and the state homeland security program will be sufficient to prevent acts of terror and national disasters. what would be deemphasized under the proposed program compared to the current grant programs, for instance, would port and transit systems see fewer grant dollars if separate programs are eliminated for them? how would funds for the most at risk areas be safeguarded under the budget request? >> as i think you know this is a -- the consolidation question is one that we discuss every
year. our view i know it's administrator fugate's view is the more effective approach is to administer grapts grants at the state level so the governors can best assess what is appropriate for their states. congress makes its own judgments in that regard every year. as i'm sure you know, this year, with regard to the uasi grants, we had language that say s we should distribute it in a way so that up to 85% of the risk and only up to 85% of the risk is satisfied with grant making. so we're working through that now. the formula for how we get there is one that i have a lot of interest in. i want to make sure we're
getting right. because i've been out in major cities and i've seen the end use that is being made with regard to our grant money. for example, in phoenix, for the8fvq super bowl, three days before the super bowl, i looked at our ops center, the joint ops center, state, federal, local, the sheriff or fire chief was anxious to point out to me every single piece of communications equipment, every camera and tv screen you see was funded by the department of homeland security through our grant making. a lot of the things you see on scene at the boston marathon bombing, the first responders, the equipment they used, the vehicles were funded by our department. i've seen the end uses of the grant money and state grant money. i know how valuable it is.
one of the reasons because i hear from state and local officials about the importance of this to them. it's something i want to be sure be get right. i think, given how the terrorist threat to our nation is evolving, it is all the more important that our state and local jurisdictions be adequately funded with homeland security. what i like to refer to as hometown security equipment. the threat to our nation is more local based. very often you could have an actor lurking in a community without notice to our national security community. the grant making in my view has become all the more important. unfortunately, while we're on a cr for five months, as you know, we're unable to do that. now that we're on a full year appropriation we can turn the
spigot back on again┌4÷ we're about to announce how wexl l intend to distribute our uasi funds very very soon and i think we've made the appropriate judgments there. >> well, i know that my local recipients feel very strongly this funding is absolutely essential. i appreciate your attentiveness to it and you can be sure we'll all look at it very closely. thank you very much. >> thank you, ma'am. >> i'm waiting for someone to take the chair so we can continue. but i will continue back to the subject matter i was talking about a little bit earlier. >> judge, if you need to take a break, that's fine. i will be here. i can wait. i understand the need to go vote. >> okay. i need to go vote. if you'll wait on us. there's mr. fleischman, he can take the chair and i can go vote.
we're back in session. good morning, mr. secretary. >> good morning. >> first, let me begin by thank youing you. you have a very arduos task. the department of homeland security is so important to security of our nation. i want to thank you for stepping up and doing that. i wanted to talk today a little bit about where the administration has gone in regard to its immigration initiatives.ía+púqv÷ and then i have some questions in that regard.
i represent the third district of tennessee, chattanooga, oak ridge, all the way up to the kentucky border. actually my district borders are philip chairman's district. whether i'm in the schools or the supermarkets and i speak with my constituents, my constituents are upset. some are furious, some are saddened by the administration's circumventing congress and as they see it, and i see it, circumventing the united states constitution with the executive orders and initiatives. it's particularly bothersome because we have immigration laws in this country, and there are a lot of people who have followed the law and are still following the law to become legal immigrants.á(y america is a great nation of legal immigrants, including my family. but folks are upset.
folks are upset because they wonder why and how this has come about. and just as you and your department have a difficult job, we in the congress have a the house is elected every two years we stand before the american people. and the constitution is precious, i think, to the american people and this has shaken the public. to move ahead with the initiatives. and i think it throws our security into somewhat uncertainty. and it casts us in a very difficult light. i want to be able to respond to my constituents to their concerns. central to this issue is the operations of the less citizenship and immigration services which bears the responsibility to process
benefits unilaterally extended to so many here illegally. i have a few questions in that regard, sir. exactly how much on average will it cost cis and any other agencies involved to are process applications and related benefits, sir? >> in response to your last question, the dopa program had it gone forward on schedule was intended to pay for itself through fees, application fees. that case is aon appeal right now. same with the doca program for kids. like many activities the program is intended to pay for itself through the collection of fees that are submitted with applications. >> and i agree the court has
issued a stay of the president's executive order. but surely, there must be a plan in place or must have been a plan in place to pay for this. would it be that the fees that legal immigrants, people who are playing by the rules are paying. would those funds be designated to use to pay for those who are not here legally? was that the plan? there was and is a well developed implementation plan. to administer the plan. the leasing of additional office space, space for processing applications and the intent was and is that the program would be paid for.
that's the intent. >> thank you, sir. >> testified about his support for the public/private partnerships and participation in reforming the tsa. as well as efficiency. what are you doing throughout dhs, sir to improve the relationship between industry and your agencies in order to streamline rule making and procurement processes and in the case of acquisitions to develop and deploy the newest and best technology in the cost-efficient manner? >> i can tell you i spend a tremendous amount of time of industry associations. industry ceos.
through our initiative, we're bringing about greater efficiency and a more mature best practices, best learning our bureaucracy has been in existence 12 years. and so i believe we're enhancing and maturing the acquisition process that larger unity of effort initiative. if i may, sir, in response to your initial comment, i think it's important for your constituents and others to understand that what we issued in november, nine separate executive actions, including efforts to enhance border security, one of the directives i signed on november 20th was to create the southern border campaign strategy, to bring about a dhs-wide approach to the security of our southern border. it's up and running, it's
operational now. and through our investments over the last period of years, in border security, i think we've seen some good results. apprehensions, which are an indicator of total attempts to cross the border are down. but there's a lot more we need to do. the other thing we did was to prioritize the deportation of people who have been convicted of crimes. and so we want to focus even more sharply our efforts on getting at those who are convicted criminals, for the sake of public safety in your district, and elsewhere. the deferred action program is an effort to bring those who are not deportation priorities out of the shadows, get them on the books, hold them accountable so that we know who they are. which i believe is important as a matter of law enforcement and public safety. >> and yes, sir, mr. secretary, while i appreciate your resolve to keeping us safe, and i thank
you for that, in that process, my biggest concern and my biggest objection to it is that the administration is doing this by executive order, and not through the legislative process. constitutionally, that offends me. and i think it weakens the fabric of the republic. so i'm going to applaud you again for trying to keep us safe. i think that is one of our most steadfast duties under the constitution, whether you're in the house, or the white house. but again, my biggest concern and frailty in this is it was done by the administration through executive order in what i view as an attempt to circumvent congress. but i do thank you for your efforts, sir. at this time i would like to recognize my colleague from texas. >> thank you so much, mr. chairman.
mr. secretary, thank you for being here. two things. one, talk to us about your unity of effort initiative. i think it's a good way of putting everybody working on the same page and how that's working on the southwest border. and then i'll ask you something about the northern border, about some huge investments that y'all are planning to do. that i want to ask you about. >> sure. the unity of effort initiative is something that i issued out about a year ago, and it is an effort to get away from the stove pipes in our department. i mean, imagine our u.s. military trying to fight a war overseas with a stovepipe approach, army, navy, air force, marine corps. so we want to bring about where it counts, joist decision-making across the entire department,
and at the headquarters level, to achieve greater efficiencies for the taxpayers. when it comes to the acquisition budget, part of our budget submission is to fund our joint requirement of counsel, which you'll see in our submission. and i think we've already seen efficiencies. the southern border campaign strategy, which i'm sure you're familiar with, is an outgrowth of the unity of effort initiative. it's something we've created three joint task forces, one in the southeast, to secure the borders in the southeast, which are largely maritime. so we have a director of joint task force east, who's coast guard three star. we have a director of joint task force west, who is a border patrol three-star. and they are responsible for coordinating the assets of the department toward border security in their theater of
operations. then we have a third task force responsible for investigations which supports the geographic task forces. they're operational, they're up and running. i think this is the wave of the future. i think we need to do this, because i think border security depends upon not just the border patrol, it depends on our customs personnel, it depends upon our air and marine personnel, coast guard personnel, cis, and where necessary, fema. so i want to draw on all of the assets of our department to promote strengthening the border. i think that change was long overdue, and it's part of our larger unity of effort initiative. >> i want to thank you and congratulate you. i think it's the right approach. because doing it in sillos, it just hasn't worked in the past. i certainly want to congratulate you on that.
let me take you up to the northern border. one of my colleagues in this committee, when you look at the numbers of trailers and traffic coming from the southern border, the numbers have increased. it's increased in my hometown by 10% from last year. billions of dollars that come across. and other ports of entry have increased. and i'm looking at the western washington university, talked about the trade between the u.s. and canada, and that actually has gone down, where the southern one has gone up, according to this report. then i see a dhs press release on february 18th of this year, a5 it talks about a particular bridge up there which i think is just right next door to the ambassador bridge. they're going through -- i think you know what i'm talking about. >> yes. >> in that project, you're saying that you all are going to be investing in operation and staffing. and i think chairman carter talked about 700 out of only
2,000. but there's a $100 million investment, and then it's going to call for an annual $50 million a year of annual staffing costs. and i say this, because, you know, we try to get $1 million from y'all, in the southern border, we have to go through so much red tape on this. and then in one particular project in the northern area, and i don't want to compete canada versus mexico, but i'm just talking about where the needs are at. talk to us a little bit why there's $100 million, when trade, according to a university study said it's been going down. and for us on the border it's been very, very difficult to get that type of investment down there. and again, i don't want to compete north and south. i want to see more bridges and not walls and fences. but i just don't understand.
>> canada is a vital economic partner of the united states. the ambassador bridge, i think, is the busiest northern port we have. it's the busiest northern crossing for the entire northern border. that's my recollection. the ambassador bridge is privately owned. i think it's maybe four lanes. the other striking thing about that bridge is that there is no highway approach on the canadian side to get to the windsor -- to the ambassador bridge. on the canadian side you've got to travel the city streets of windsor. when i think of that, i try to imagine an approach to the george washington bridge in new york city, or the lincoln tunnel, through city streets. the new jersey side, what a mess that would be. and so there is a compelling case for a second bridge in detroit. and to open up commerce with canada.
canadians are very interested in this. the city of detroit is very interested in this, as part of their redevelopment. the state of michigan is very interested in this. we've been working at it for years. and we've reached an agreement now to build the bridge, and with the bridge you've got to =tç build a customs plaza. my department is committed to funding on an ongoing basis, a going forward basis, the operational upkeep of that customs plaza. i think that there is a compelling case for another northern border crossing. >> again, my time is up. and i agree. i don't want to compete the south versus the north. that's not my intent. the only thing is, when large investments in the northern area, they're done very easily. i can give you more compelling arguments why we ought to look dqsñ at the southern border also when it comes to trade. that's something i wanted to ask you, give the southern area a little consideration when you look at $100 million investment
and $50 million a year investments. that's the only thing i ask you to do. >> i'm having -- having visited your state, something like ten times -- >> but not lo red oh, where we get 12,000 trailers a day. you go down to the rio grandee, where that's security. i'm talking about commerce. 12,000 trailers a day. maybe one of these days i will bring you down to laredo. that's another issue. laredo is a different type of commerce. and that's the only thing i ask you to do. >> okay. understood. >> thank you. dr. harris? >> thank you very much. thank you, mr. secretary, for being before the subcommittee. let me ask a couple of questions about h 2 b. a lot of seafood processing tourism industry, it's necessary to keep the little bit of economic recovery we have going. in my district.
and, you know, you're well aware of the whole court issue with the court that ruled against the department of labor's ability to have rules and regulations, and the department of labor subsequently spending applications. but then surprisingly enough, dhs is suspending applications right after it, even though the law is clear that dol only has a consultative role. why is premium processing for h2b being suspended? for the employer to pay to have the expedited processing in 15 days? >> i'm aware of the case. i'm aware of the issue. and i'm aware that we're moving forward with h-2-b processing. with the permission of the court on an interim basis. i've got to get back to you -- >> on the premium issue? do you know what the time frames are right now? you can get back to me. but i would appreciate it pretty timely. we're very held up. i mean, these employers -- there's a lot of lip service paid about it. the bottom line is, we have -- we're going to have product ready for processing. tourists ready to come.
and perhaps no workers because of what dol and dhs have done here. >> by the way, sir, did you see the letter we sent you dated yesterday? >> dated yesterday? i've got to be pretty good. i mean, it is only 10:30 on the morning after the letter was sent. >> that's why i asked. >> let me ask, prior to this recent dhs shutdown, the -- you know, the 33,000 cap, but dhs said, okay, we know there are going to be rejections so we'll accept 40,000, 50,000 applications knowing some will be rejected. but this year they're only accepting 33,000. i guess, what happens if some are rejected? i mean, the whole problem is, you've got the 120-day time frame. so you've already got a short time frame.
if dhs hits this cap at 33,000, rejects, you know, 7,000 or 8,000, this is probably going to happen, then you've delayed the ability of the employers to apply for their season. these are all seasonal businesses. why did the dhs change that policy? >> it sounds like it was a judgment of citizenship and immigration services. i would be happy to find out for you, sir. >> okay. i know i'll get an answer somewhere along the line here about this. does the -- >> you wrote us a letter and we responded -- >> well, mr. secretary, in all fairness, h-2-b is an important -- it's important for this
economy. it is part of the department you run, isn't it? >> absolutely. >> when you make a major policy change, decreasing the number of applications to this visa program, that's something i've got to write a letter to you about as to why that change has been made? i'll take it. i've got to write a letter to know that. the dhs is also not updating the -- i've only got 1 minute 36 seconds left. the dhs has always been publishing the cap counts on an ongoing basis, on their website. i've got a note here it hasn't been updated since march 27th, it is march 26th. could you commit to weekly updates to the cap count? so at least our employers know how close we're getting to the new lower cap you've imposed? >> a, you don't have to write a letter. if you want information, you can ask me now. if i don't have the information sitting here, which i don't in the case of your last question, i can get back to you. >> let's get to a pretty serious issue. because it has to do with this
whole issue of the daca and dapa. and the fact that it becomes pretty clear by judge hannon's opinion on the seeking the injunction -- delaying his injunction, that the court was misled about 108, 081 deferrals. these are part of the new guidelines, and yet the court in a -- in the defendant's advisory filed march 3rd, i guess had to walk back what the department of justice said earlier, which is, by the way, dhs hasn't been processing anything under the new guidelines until february. but then has to walk it back, because it turns out, yes, in fact dhs has given 108,081 deferred actions, under your new memoranda. and someone, i don't know, did you all forget to tell the lawyers that actually, yeah, you
have been issuing these? this was one of the bases actually for the judge not providing the stay of the injunction. did you make it clear to the department -- i want to get it straight. because doj is also responsible to the committee. did dhs made it clear to the department of justice when they filed their motions, and answered some questions, that in fact 108,081 new three-year deferred actions had in fact been issued under the new guidelines? why did doj think they hadn't been issued? that no action was going to be taken until february? >> my directive, which was part of the record in front of the judge, said very clearly that the three-year renewal will begin to apply to all first-time applications as well as
applications for renewal effective november 24th, 2014. that's what was in the record. so it was clear by the point of the hearing that we were moving forward with three-year renewals. sitting here, i do not know whether the number of renewals that had been granted at the moment of the hearing was known to the court. but it should have been clear, because it was in the record of the case that we began issuing three-year renewals, right here on page 3 of this directive, sir. >> all i can tell you, you know, general counsel at dod, i urge you to go back and read judge hannon's opinion why he didn't grant the delay of his injunction. i'll ask you again, was the doj lawyers informed -- i'll just -- i'll end with that. mr. chairman. when they informed the judge that nothing was going to be issued until the middle of february, when the judge determined the guidelines in the
case? we'll do it in a follow-up question. thank you very much. >> thank you. >> thank you, mr. chairman. welcome. we very much appreciate your testimony this morning, secretary johnson. you have a major job. on behalf of the people of our country. and i wanted to ask if when chairman carter was here a little bit earlier, he went through some job openings statistics. is your -- do you agree with the figures that he cited in terms of the number of unfilled job openings at the department of homeland security? >> well, i do know that of the additional 2,000 customs personnel that we were authorized under the murray ryan law, we have filled about 700 of those 2,000. and i explained earlier that part of the reason we haven't been able to move faster on that is the ability to get lie detector personnel and technicians in place.
and we've had an issue with the contractor that does the background checks. they were the subject of a cyber intrusion. but we're aggressively working to catch up on that. >> i would very much appreciate if your department could provide me with the -- and for the record -- the types of job openings across the entire department that are currently available. i was not one of those members of congress who tried to hold up the department of homeland security or shut her down. so part of your difficulty probably stems from the congress itself causing you difficulty. and hopefully that won't happen again. i respect very much the work that your employees do. let me say, i represent the longest coastal district in the great lakes, but for one. i'm in the lower great lakes, lake erie, cleveland and toledo. i would warmly invite you to our region. the arrival of the border patrol was quite a historic moment for us. we have been adjusting to this. with some difficulty. and i think if you have a moment, as you're flying over the country, we will take very
good care of you. and it would be great to have a meeting between yourself, and not just your employees, but sheriffs, and state patrolmen, and chiefs of police in our region. the adjustments have been slow. they are coming, but i think they need some attention on the northern border. for example, we have check-in phones that are there for those who travel to canada, and across the lake. i view those as a vulnerability. i think it's important that the department understand what's happening there. number two, there are issues with shift differentials, how the cbp is staffed to receive vessels, and aircraft. and some have told us that because you can earn overtime on
sunday, the staffing tends to be higher on sunday when the vessels aren't arriving, and during the week there's a shortage of staffing. also, there are severe salary differentials between local sheriffs and police. and the homeland security presence in the region. there are differences about where the territory they are to explore, where the edges are. and i think it would be very important to have this discussion. i'm just inviting you at this point. i know you're extraordinarily busy, we would greatly appreciate your department's help in streamlining the process that integrates your services with our local law enforcement. we think that we're a very important part of the country, and the great lakes have been kind of a nice warm bathtub for the world. and the necessity to patrol and so forth is fairly new to us.
my question really revolves around the visa waiver program, asking you to take a look at the nation -- differentiation between the nations that are our friends, let's say starting with the members of nato, including poland, bulgaria, romania and croatia. as you look at that program, and our relations with these countries, with poland alone, if they were to be included within the visa waiver program, we would probably have an additional 600,000 travelers from that country and the other nato countries in a year. i don't know the statistics being used to deny inclusion in the program there. but my question to you directly, or for the record is, what is blocking the inclusion of nato countries in our visa waiver program? are you using a rejection rate within the home countries? are you using an overstay rate? what can we do to treat these allies more respectfully? >> thank you for that question, ma'am.
the qualifications for the visa waiver program are spelled out in statute. the principal qualification is the rejection rate, as i recall. or visa applications. it has to be below a certain number in order to qualify for the program. last time i looked, i believe poland did not qualify for that specific statutory criteria. >> i would appreciate, sir, if
your department could provide me)awq with the actual regimen that's used to register those decisions. and if we have to do something to take a re-look at those four countries, surely poland, which has been a member of nato for quite a while now, i would appreciate it. >> sure thing.gp mostly it's in statute. i know there is also a legislative effort to broaden the parameters. and some call it the j.o.l.t. and we have real issues out there with homeland security. so i hope you would accept my invitation. >> thank you, ma'am. >> thank you. >> thank you. mr. young? >> thank you, mr. chairman. good morning. nice to have you here in front of us. there was an oig report issued yesterday regarding the subject line, investigation into employee complaints about management of the u.s. citizenship and immigration
services eb-5 programs. have you had a chance to review that yet? you're aware of it? >> if you're referring to the one concerning the deputy secretary, yes, i have read it. >> yes. i'm troubled by that report.ó2x) are you? >> i believe that the report has some real lessons learned in it. that i have spoken to the deputy secretary about. >> okay. what are those lessons learned? i would be curious to know what they are. have you taken any actions that the secretary -- what is seen here is some -- pretty much a deviation from the norm as to what the general practices are. and, you know, out of 700 regional center applications, your deputy secretary got involved in three. and of those three, they're pretty politically connected. you had former pennsylvania governor ed rendell, senator harry reid, virginia governor terry mccallive, the brother of hillary rodham clinton, calling in, pushing to get these applications approved. all politically connected. all lobbying.
in all three cases the ig said the applicants got what they wanted only because of the intervention. isn't that improper political influence? it sure looks like it. >> first of all, as mr. mayorca spells out, he received many inquiries about eb-5 applications, including from a number of members of congress on both sides of the aisle. there are three cases highlighted in the ig report, which i have read, and which i have reviewed, that you referred to. and i believe that there are a number of things that can be drawn from the ig report that ai÷ are useful. i've directed that a new protocol be put in place for eb-5 cases, and how we handle them. and under what circumstances we
should accept communications from outsiders, with an interest in the process. and we get lots of them concerning eb-5, including from a number of your colleagues. and so i believe a new protocol is appropriate. i also believe that senior officials such as mr. mayor cas needs to be sensitive to the appearance that is created when we become involved in the normal course of our bureaucracy. >> he's smarter than that. i mean, come on. being sensitive? out of the 700, the three that he got lobbied on, political networks there, i mean, he said, okay, you have rank and file employees, the department of homeland security, from the bottom up who are seething because of this. >> i don't know that he was lobbied on just three. i suspect he was lobbied on a much larger number from
republicans and democrats. let's not mischaracterize what actually happened here. i also believe that to a degree, we should try to be responsive to the public we serve, including to their representatives in congress. and so i get phone calls from your colleagues all the time about matters pending before my department. and i'm assuming that you would want me to a degree to try to be responsive to your constituents' concerns. i do believe that there's a balance to be struck, however, so that we avoid the appearance of impropriety and we avoid the suspicion of our subordinates. that is a lesson to be learned from this report. and i'm sure he understands that now as well. >> what do you do to gain the confidence and trust back from the whistleblowers who threw up the red flag on this, and only interviewed by the ig if their
names and identities were kept quiet? that's how explosive i think this was, and could still become still. what are you doing to regain their trust? >> i issued a directive yesterday to create a new protocol about the circumstances under which more senior officials become involved in the eb-5 cases, and the circumstances under which we should be accepting overtures and communications from people with an interest in the process, including members of congress. >> you mentioned that two or three times. i understand. >> yes. >> i appreciate your feedback. i just don't get it. you're not going to do anything with the deputy secretary, he's going to stay where he is? >> the deputy secretary is a valuable member of our senior leadership team. he's working very, very hard in
the public interest. he's working very hard to reform the management of our organization, improve morale, manage our management action group. he has been a valuable member of the team. definitely value added. and it would be a big loss to the men and women of our department if he were not full-time, fully engaged, occupying his job. i believe that. i work with him daily. i've read the report. i've read it very carefully. i believe he understands the lessons to be learned from it. and we need to move on. >> so you think a new protocol and directive is going to help regain the trust in the rank and file folks, those whistleblowers up and down the line? >> no, i wouldn't say that. i think that we should make sure that the rank and file, not just in cis, understands that we as senior leaders need to be above
reproach. and appearances also do matter. if that's the spirit of your question, i very much agree with that, sir. >> i thank you for your time. i've gone over. i don't yield anything back, i'm sorry. >> very well. thank you, sir. mr. price? >> thank you, mr. chairman. welcome, mr. secretary. glad to have you here, and to hear of your plans for the coming year. we, on this committee, i believe, have exemplified a kind of bipartisan support for the mission of the department of homeland security. and i hope we can continue in that spirit. i have to say, though, that your agency, while it's one of the more widely supported agencies, has been buffetted as few others have by partisan wins emanating from this institution. in particular, you were held hostage for the first three months of the fiscal year to a partisan conflict over immigration enforcement. you sub sistd for three months on a cr. and fortunately, you're past that now. i wonder what your reflections are on that.
i know you briefly got into this in your opening statement. but i'd like for you to reflect on what those four months were actually like for the employees of dhs, what kind of delays, what kind of uncertainty, what kind of functions were you not able to undertake during that period? are there lingering effects, although that adventure is over, are there lingering effects that we should be aware of? and then, related topic, of course, is the looming threat of sequestration. either a bill marked up to sequestration levels, or actually another round of sequestration, if we don't manage to do at least a short-term budget agreement, what would you say about the impact that would have? and this time around, are there any kind of preempting mitigative steps you believe you should take?
>> all good questions, sir. anytime the possibility of a government shutdown looms over working men and women who depend on a paycheck every two weeks, that can't be easy, and can't be helpful to morale, and the efforts we are making to improve morale. in the department. as i said earlier, our men and women actually do depend on their paychecks. it's not easy to just simply say, 80% of you are going to have to come to work anyway, so what's the big deal. asking people to work without knowing when and if they will ultimately get paid for the time they're working is a big deal for a lot of people. including people with medical issues, who depend upon their paychecks. i hope that now that we're fully funding -- funded, this uncertainty that was looming
over us is past and it doesn't have any lingering effects. i tried very hard to communicate to the work force on a regular basis about what was happening here in washington. so that they could understand the possibility of a shutdown. i communicated optimism the entire period, to say i think congress will ultimately fund us. i thought it was important to be optimistic during that period of time. and fortunately, congress provided us a fully funded bill on march 3rd. and i'm very appreciative of that. as you know, sir, during the period we were on a cr, we couldn't fund a lot of our grant-making activity. which caused a lot of consternation in state and local
law enforcement, state and local homeland security efforts. we were held to certain levels of spending. there were things that i needed to do, and i wanted to do for border security, for the secret service that were held up as a result of being on a cr. but those efforts are now under way. and we're doing the things we need to do, for example, for reforms of the secret service, in hiring the additional secret service personnel for the upcoming presidential cycle. we have a fully funded fy '15 that we couldn't do before. so i am worried about lingering effects. i'm worried about the effects of uncertainty around sequestration. and i think it's incumbent on the leadership of my department, including myself, to be informative to the work force, let them know what's going on, but also communicate a sense of optimism. i continually tell our work force about the importance of
their work, the importance of our homeland security mission. it goes to national security, public safety, as well as homeland security. and i, too, am disappointed by the level of rancor of the issues we deal with. we are, fundamentally, in my opinion, a national security agency. national security should be bipartisan, nonpartisan. and i think there still is a fair amount of bipartisan spirit around national security issues. in washington. and i would like to try to promote that. >> thank you, sir. i'm out of time. i will have additional -- i appreciate that answer. that's a good answer. and i hope we can take it to heart.>i i will have some additional questions for the record. i just briefly want to underscore the importance of
one, having to do with surveillance. that's something your department has been working on. through the national collaborative preparedness, utilizing realtime data for ems, poison control, pharmacies, other sources to quickly, quickly identify potential public health crises. whether they're -- they would apply, of course, to deliberative attacks and also to developing epidemics and pandemics. so we get realtime indications of what is developing. i know you are supporting that, and moving along with it. i am going to want you to provide for the record an update on that effort, and an indication of the kind of interactions you're having with other relevant agencies to bring that program along. thank you, mr. chairman.
>> thank you, mr. price. mr. secretary, congress required dhs to implement a biometric exit program to traffic foreign nationals entering and leaving the country, and identify those who have overstayed their visas. fiscal '16 budget requests an increase of $65.8 million to begin efforts to replace dhs's aging by yo metric system known as ident. the replacement of this system is necessary not only to implement the statutorily mandated by buy yo metric bram, but to continue to identify potential national security threats. my first question, sir, is can you please explain the importance of this system and the operational impact if it is not replaced, and at what point will the system no longer continue to function? >> i agree that iometric exit is an important goal. i agree with the importance of the latest technology. i think that given the global
terrorist threat, monitoring the travel of individuals of suspicion between and among different countries is becoming all the more important. we have, as i'm sure you know, the foreign fighter phenomenon. and so tracking who is entering and leaving our country is becoming all the more important. i think we've made significant strides since september 11th, 2001, in that regard. through the efforts of cbp. but we need to go further. i don't have a precise date for you in terms of when the existing technology will no longer be functional. i agree fully with spirit of your question about the importance of achieving the latest technology here.
>> thank you, sir. as chairman carter mentioned earlier in his opening statement we're unlikely to be able to fund all 1.5 million in increasing requested in the fiscal '16 budget. what is the total estimated cost for the replacement? >> i can get back with you. >> the recently passed fiscal year appropriations bill requested your department for the coast guard and cbp. further the bill directed the department to develop a flying program using the coast guard as a model. >> the specific answer to that, a< i'll take for the record but d1wiñ again, this is part of our overall unify effort initiative so that we have joint requirements for things like the coast guard and cbp in flying
hour and aircraft. i believe so, sir. >> very well. at this time i think i'd like to recognize the ranking member for some more questions. >> mr. secretary, as you know unaccompanied mexican children crossing the southern border are treated differently than children from central america. instead of a legal requirement that they be transferred to the officesñ3 )efugee as is the case with central american children. almost all mexican children who cross the border are quickly repatriotated. it requires to evaluate whether the child may be a victim of trafficking or a fear of returning home and whether the u:ñ child is able to make an independent decision to return yx+a
it requires to evaluate whether the child may be a victim of trafficking or a fear of returning home and whether the child is able to make an independent decision to return home. if they're unable to make that determination then they are treated like children from other countries. i'm concerned in practice cbp may by repatriotating mexican children.
can you tell us whether cbp is fully aware of this law and whether they are in fact, following the requirements of >y+ the trafficking of victims of protection act with respect to mexican children and, if not, =ñ what will be done to address any deficiencies in enforcing this law? >> i believe they are aware of it. i am very familiar with the provisions of that law having looked at it extensively last summer when we were in the midst of considering amending that law. i do know that a return of a mexican unaccompanied child requires there be a choice made
by the child. that's what the law says. i would expect our personnel to r(i be cognizant of that. you ask a minor to make a ów decision mandated by law there's decisions that have to go into that to ensure voluntary. i would which part cbp to look into that and be sensitive to it. in the spirit of your question i will also, for myself, inquire about what measures we employ tohis make sure that a decision by a minor such as that is one that cfjñ we're satisfied is truly voluntary.d-5z >> one of the concerns is whether cbp is the appropriate group to be asking the children.
i'd like to work with you on that. >> okay. unaccompanied children last year, there was a rapid growth in the number of families crossing the border. the department responded by establishing a significant number of new family detention bids. in fact, the number of family detention beds will have gone from 85, at this time last year,yfg ve÷ to what is expected to be more than 3,000 by the end of the year. i understand it will serve as deterrent, many of us are concerned about the prospect so many families held in detention settings for extended periods of time. are there better options than detention and is the real issue
the speed of which a person's zwcrp cases adjudicated before an immigration judge. has imposed a preliminary injunction on the i.c.e. policy of detaining families without oyh consideration of releasing them on bond. why did i.c.e. have such a policy? can you respond to some complaints this i've heard that even though i.c.e. has begun offering bond to some families, the amounts for bond is too high for families to afford. >> part of our budget's mission includes 122 million for our alternatives to detention program. it remains the case also that the majority of family units that are apprehended at the
border are bonded, released. we have increased the bed space. it was only 85 last summer. we have a more permanent facility. i believe that the expansion of the family unit space, frankly, is a good thing. many people don't agree with it, but i believe it was a good thing. i think the facility we have now is better than the one we had. i've been there myself. i've seen it. it's a residential center. the spike dropped off sharply beginning in mid-june and the numbers are still low. this is the time of year they will creep up. they will creep up right now and
remain about 20% lower than they were at this time last year. i hope that continues. i think we need to be prepared and maintain this for our overall border security efforts. you're correct about the lawsuit. we sought reconsideration of that decision by the judge here in washington, d.c. i think it's an important capability to maintain. the injunction there went with regard to those who have asserted a fair claim. it's that class of individuals. bond decisions are made by an immigration judge and when there's a credible fear, assertion made.
>> just for clarification, are you saying the detention centers are preferable to alternatives to detentions which are less costly. >> it depends upon individual circumstances. there are a large, large number of individuals who are a apprehended who are released on bond and not detained. >> thank you. secretary johnson, the budget request included $215.8 million of continued construction of the saint elizabeth's headquarters complex circle. that's a lot of money to absorb in a period of fiscal constraint. i understand the project won't be completed while this administration is in office. what is the benefit to the taxpayer and will it save money? >> there are a couple of benefits. i know working at the pentagon of the value of having a common headquarters for all your components in a cabinet level department. number two, the economic benefit
to the taxpayer is greater efficiency is achieved in terms of the leasing arrangements we have around town right now. number three, the request for 215 million in fy '16 is larger than what we have for fy '16. if it's fully funded to that level it will be cheaper in the long run and get us there on a quicker timetable. that's what i'm told. i tend to believe that. it makes common sense. the more fully you fund something, the less expensive it becomes in the long run because it's more efficient to get there quicker. i've been to the st. elizabeth's campus many times. i've walked the grounds. i've seen the virtue of being in a common space. right now we're spread across 30
different locations in the washington area. there's a lot of shortcomings to our ability to carry out our mission in our current space which was always intended to be temporary. there are a lot of things i cannot do and my staff cannot do in the space we're in right now in terms of secure areas, in terms of telecommunications capability and the like. so, this is a good project that needs to get done. i think funding at that level of 215 million will achieve savings over the long run for the taxpayer. >> it's my understanding there's
been a revised plan which is plan or the cost for the revised plan? >> the overall cost are lower, which is why we've asked for as much as we have in fy '16. >> it's also my understanding that over $1 billion has been spent by dhs on this project. have the cost estimates been accurate and have there been overruns? >> i suspect there's been overruns. that one billion goes to the creation for the most part of the creation of the new coast guard headquarters at the same site. that's now completed. it's a nice facility. i know the coast guard is glad to be there.
like many projects it's taken longer to get there. i think it's never to shorten the timetable and lessen the cost. >> is the project on schedule? >> i don't believe it is conforming to the original schedule. i think the current schedule, if we get the funding we need for this year, will get us to completion in the year 2021. that's my recollection. >> one final question. how do you prioritize the 215.8 million for this project over additional ships and maintenance at the coast guard? >> good question. in different economic circumstances if we had a different -- if we were trying to get to a lower top line, i would probably prioritize national security, maritime security, basic homeland security over a new headquarters.
we have a higher top line request this year. the economy is improving. i think that a new headquarters, which we always intended to have for department of homeland security. in the long run it achieves savings. >> thank you, sir. >> mr. secretary, we added some language in the appropriation bill that i'm going to ask it be continued. my professionalism of your cbp officers i they do a great job but sometimes they mistreat people coming across. again, if it's a bad apple you go after the bad apple, but we have to have some professionalism.
congratulations and hopefully some of the folks that want to implement over there and hopefully y'all can implement that and i really appreciate that. again, kudos to your folks in the south texas area. let me go back to the unaccompanied kids. let me add one more factor and let me give you my perspective. last year was a difficult year for some of us to address that issue. i know it was very difficult for you. folks on both sides were taking different positions. i have the say, and i've told this one of the reporters from new york or whatever, i said you
were very courageous under the pressure and while some people were for it and others were against it, no names mentioned, you stood firm on that. it was difficult for a lot of us on that issue. one factor i'd like to remind everybody here is on kids going back to mexico there was an agreement signed between the u.s. government and mexican back to mexico, there was an agreement that was signed between the u.s. government and the mexican government, that allows the mexican consulate to play a role. so it's really not the cbp officer that makes that decision. they're handed over to the mexican consulates, the mexican consulates will then ask them the question. l they're very protective of their people. and they say, sure you don't want to file for an asylum? sure you're not a victim of a sex trafficking law? et cetera et cetera and then at that time if they feel satisfied, of course they'll hand them over to diff, the social service of mexico. so there's another component involved that we have to keep in mind there was an agreement
that wasn't signed between the u.s. and mexico. just want to make sure you keep following that agreement. really, the last iso is by the mexicans before that final decision is sent over. we have a copy of the agreement. and we'll -- just want to make sure everybody understands there's that extra step there. just ask you to follow that extra step with the mexican government that make that final decision. the unaccompanied kids, again, i've been looking at the numbers. and last month, i think there was an average of 75 unaccompanied kids. you might have better numbers. i'm just looking at some number, at least down there in valley. 75 a day. 75 unaccompanied kids a day. multiply that by 30 and that will give you a pretty large number. that does not include, my understanding, family units, which are kids with parent or a
family member there. so, if you add those numbers, you're talking about large numbers. again, i understand, mr. s;ú"(áqáary, it's nothing like we saw last year but i think a while ago you said -- or the unaccompanied kids are 20% lower.aázq >> it's about 40% lower. >> 40%. so give ,ñ us some real numbers. what does that mean? i gave you the 75 a day. >> yeah. february 2015, across the southern border. apprehensions of unaccompanied children were 2,395. >> ,39 -- >> february of 2014 apprehensions across the southern border of unaccompanied children were 4,845. >> so you're still talking about 2200 for that month? >> yes. and my educated guess about march is that march will be higher. probably to around the 2600 or 2700 level.
march of 2014, unaccompanied kids was 7,176. if you look at january january 2015, for unaccompanied kids this year, was 2,121. that's actually the lowest monthly number we've had in quite a while. january 2014 was 3,706. so, through the fiscal year, n!7z fiscal year 2015, and i have the exact numbers here. i'd be happy to leave this with you. >> we'd love to get a copy. >> it's running about, for the kids, unaccompanied kids, it's running about 40% lower. i hope it stays that way, but we have to be prepared in the event it doesn't. >> right. so, in total numbers, what are you talking for year 2015? actual numbers. i know percentages. i'm glad the percentages are -- what are we talking about? i know february was about --
>> last year, 2014, the totalnw number including the mexican uacs, i believe, was 68,000. if you takegoçv out -- i'm doing this from memory now, if you take out the mexican children, i believe the total number was about 58,000. i suspect if it stays at the current rate, will come in at around 40% -- 60% of gzy8,000, whatever that number is. >> okay. >> again, i have more precise numbers right here. you can do the math yourself. i'd be happy to leave this with you. >> percentages are lower, but you're still talking about >> thousands of people yeah yeah. >> thousands. i'm waiting for shb to dot math for me on this. but let's say 30,000 ñ+. 30,000. it's still a lot. now, does that uac cover also family units? >> no, that's a different number. >> right. which means that you got
unaccompanied kids, and then the kids that come in with family units, that's another number. can you give us roughly what are the numbers for fy15?u >> january family units across the southern border -- when we talk about family units, we're talking about individuals in family units. january was a total 1,622. january 2014 was 2,286. februar4á: &k february 2014 was 3,281. and then the numbers last year like the numbers for this unaccompanied kids reached their peeks in the months of may and june. their high was 16,330 in june fbk 2014. high for the unaccompanied kids was june 2014, that was 10,620.
>> mr. sect secretary -- and i think you're very good. you're very intelligent, so -- >> i wasn't -- >> it's a compliment. it's still thousands of kids and family units are still coming in. i know your officers are doing a better job managing that. >> yes. >> i am family with the daily and for us that live on the border, it's simple question. a lot of times, it's easier for folks that live away from the border. when you live on the border, you talk to your constituents and talk about catch and release.vj. it'säáñ a very sensitive issue. and i think you understand that. but as long as the facility treats people with dignity and respect, no abuse in any way or form, i think that's something thatúe0wq we need to look at.9t i'm glad. it's a lot closer to the border with the activities.
still want to agree with the ranking member that we need to look at alternatives. for us that live on the border, that have constituents on the border, catch and release is a very sensitive issue that we just don't agree with. the catch and release situation. thank you. last summer was very difficult for us. >> thank you and i will note that the secretary's document he referred to will be made part of the record. and, mr. with my questions, but i think our ranking member roybal-allard has some questions. >> yes. >> i just want to follow up on the family detention issue. because -- another reason for detention is that a detained person's case is adjudicated much more quickly before an immigration judge than those who are in an alternative detention m' and it just seems to me that a uqq better use of detention would be
into having these cases more quickly adjudicated. i don't know if you want to >> that's something we're looking at that exact issue right now. the time it takes to adjudicate a case where no credible fear is asserted. where a credible fear claim is asserted, i think it is generally true that the cases move faster if the person has not been bonded out. but if the cases are moving slower, and the cases are moving slower, there are fewer cases to handle. i think it is important to note that our budget request includes the request for additional attorneys. the doj request is a request for additional judges. so, we would like the additional attorneys to go along with the additional judges so that we can move these cases more efficiently. >> thank you.s >> thank you.gf mr. secretary, i want to thank you for being before us today rxq[