House FY20 Homeland Bill Approves Modest Increases in TSA, Coast Guard Operational Funding

June 6, 2019

This week, the House Appropriations Committee released the text of its draft fiscal 2020 appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security, and the bill was approved by voice vote during a brief subcommittee markup session on June 5.

In terms of overall spending increases, it’s a lean year for the Department – the spending plan adopted May 8 by the committee made this obvious when the other eleven subcommittees collectively got a base budget allocation that was 4.1 percent above the net fiscal 2019 numbers (ranging from a 2.6 percent boost for Defense to an 8.3 percent increase for Military Construction and Veterans), but Homeland had to make do with an increase of just $325 million (+0.7 percent) above last year.

Much of this, no doubt, reflects Democratic opposition to the Trump Administrations’ border and immigration policies in general and to a proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall in particular.

But the Transportation Security Agency, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the transportation security grant programs of the Federal Emergency Management Agency are also subject to this overall budget allocation, and this has caused some constraint in the Coast Guard capital budget in particular.

These agencies, more than most DOT programs, have very large budget accounts that are then subdivided into great detail in the accompanying committee report, and that report won’t be released until next week (24 hours in advance of the full committee markup), so we don’t have a lot of detail yet. But here are the account-level totals for the DHS transportation agencies in the House bill:

TSA. Once again, the appropriators refuse to use their bill to increase the aviation security fee charged to enplaning passengers (it isn’t Appropriations jurisdiction anyway). CBO estimates that the current fees will bring in $2.8 billion in 20120, $161 million more than 2019, so that is the level in the House bill. The gross appropriation for TSA Operations and Support, which includes all the screener salaries, gets a $238 million (+3.2%) boost over 2019.

A fact sheet from the committee lists the following priorities that will be spelled out in the report: “$59 million to sustain Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response teams; $45 million to sustain the Local Law Enforcement Reimbursement Program; $82 million to continue funding TSA staffing of exit lanes; $176 million for computed tomography screening equipment, an increase of $28 million above the request; and $20 million for reimbursements to airports for legacy purchases of in-line explosive detection systems.”

Coast Guard. At the Coast Guard, a $221 million increase in operational funding (+2.8%) is offset by a $276 million reduction in capital funding (both compared to 2019). The bill kills the Reserve Training account and the Environmental Compliance and Restoration account and moves them under Operations and Support as line items. Within capital, the fact sheet lists “$135 million for initial materials for a 2nd Polar Security Cutter; $290 million for five Fast Response Cutters; $215 million for two H-130J aircraft, including spare parts inventory; $100 million for initial materials for a 12th National Security Cutter; $70 million to replace a command and control aircraft; and $251 million for Shore Facilities and Aids to Navigation, including $78 million above the request for Housing, Family Support, Safety, and Training Facilities.”

FEMA security grants. For the first time in what seems like forever, the appropriators have increased the size of the port security grant program and the public transit and rail security grant program. Both programs, which had been receiving $100 million per year for the last few years, receive $110 million appropriations under the House bill. Within the transit/rail program, the $10 million Amtrak set-aside and the $2 million over-the-road bus set-aside are retained.

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