Despite all of the concern over border security, and the billions of dollars suck into technologies that track movement across the southern and northern U.S. borders, a House Appropriations Committee markup of the next Homeland Security Department budget has brought out the long knives.
The markup would give DHS $40.6 billion in base funding for fiscal 2012—$3 billion less than the White House requested and a full $1.1 billion less than DHS received in fiscal 2011.
While the committee wants the Coast Guard, the one armed service under DHS, to have an additional $258.3 million for “global war on terrorism” operations, technologies and offices on the border didn’t fare so well. The committee wants to reduce funding for the program that controls the Customs and Border Protection's controversial SBInet program from $527 million to $500 million, while also reducing funding for SBInet’s follow-on program, the Alternative (Southwest) Border Technology effort by $27 million, $19 million of which would come from the $242 million DHS had wanted to spend on it in fiscal 2012.
A major component of this program is to install a series of commercial, off-the-shelf integrated fixed towers along the border, as the result of an open competition that is currently being put together. But the committee worries that “It is unclear how the department’s acquisition approach for additional integrated fixed tower systems fits with the premise of the Arizona Border Technology Plan, namely to procure and deploy off-the-shelf technology for an intended immediate benefit.”
This is just a markup, but the fights over what technologies to put in place along the southern border continue. The whole House is currently debating the bill.