Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) has demanded a list of cost-saving measures that had been under consideration at the Department of Homeland Security before Secretary Janet Napolitano began taking controversial actions while blaming sequestration.
For one, the senator wants an explanation about why Customs and Border Protection personnel have been a greater target for furloughs than non-security workers.
“I believe the misleading information you have provided regarding possible negative outcomes is unnecessary and an unacceptable alternative to producing common sense solutions to meeting the requirements of sequestration,” Cornyn wrote Napolitano on Friday.
“Border security and the detention of those who violate our laws are at the core of DHS’s mission. Yet last week, your Department released an unknown number of detainees into communities across Texas and the United States. To this day, your Department has not responded to numerous Congressional and state government requests for detailed information regarding the total number of detainees released by your department, the legal violations for which these individuals were being detained, or a geographic breakdown of releases. Your Department also released furlough notices on March 7, including notices to CBP personnel which explained the decision to furlough as required ‘to promote the efficiency of the [CBP] service by avoiding a deficit of funds in FY2013.’ These actions call into question the Department’s commitment to its core missions and raise serious concerns about the judgment of DHS leadership,” the letter continued.
“Your actions and rhetoric regarding the requirements of sequestration are inconsistent with guidance provided to your Department. A January 14, 2013 notice from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) urged agencies to ‘use any available flexibility to reduce operational risks and minimize impacts on the agency’s core mission.’ The proposed furloughs of personnel and the release of criminal alien immigrants represent a violation of certain of the Department’s basic core missions, including: prevent terrorism and enhance security, secure and manage our borders, and enforce and administer our immigration laws.”
Cornyn requested “a detailed list of alternative measures your Department considered to meet the budgetary reductions required by sequestration, particularly those which achieve cost savings without endangering our nation’s security and trade.”
“With respect to the announced intention to furlough CBP and Border Patrol personnel, I request an explanation as to why DHS is targeting these agents and officers instead of prioritizing non-security budget reductions. With respect to your Department’s decision to release criminal detainees, I request a detailed description of the charges that were being pursued against all released detainees and whether or not those charges are still pending.”
The senator noted that Obama’s own budget request for FY 2013 identified $822 million in administrative savings at DHS by reducing spending on agency travel, printing, promotional materials, and costs associated with government vehicles.