Homeland Security Appropriations Bill Bolsters Border Security

President George W. Bush on Oct. 4 signed a $34.8 billion fiscal-year 2007 appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that allocates funds to beef up border security and to deploy nuclear detection equipment at ports of entry, among other measures.

In what DHS is calling an "unprecedented level of funding" for border security, the bill will fund 1,500 border patrol agents and 6,700 detention beds and includes $1.2 billion for border fencing, vehicle barriers, technology – such as ground-base radar and infrared cameras – and "tactical infrastructure."

Bush, speaking in Scottsdale, Ariz., where he signed H.R. 5441, said the bill "helps us address one of the central issues facing all states, but particularly a state like Arizona, and that's illegal immigration."

"I understand full well that illegal immigration puts pressure on the public schools and hospitals," Bush said. "It strains state and local budgets. In some communities, it increases crime. The administration and Congress have been taking decisive steps to address this issue."

Bush noted his administration has increased funding for border security from $4.6 billion in 2001 to $9.5 billion in 2006 and has increased the number of Border Patrol agents from about 9,000 to 12,000.

Bush added the bill "will help us deploy nuclear detection equipment at our ports of entry, raise security standards at the nation's chemical plants, safeguard American cities against weapons of mass destruction and stop terrorists seeking to enter our country."

"The bill will also help our government better respond to emergencies and natural disasters by strengthening the capabilities of the Federal Emergency Management Agency," Bush said.

DHS, in a statement, said the appropriations bill "will adequately fund" the agency's mission.

Additional highlights of the bill, according to DHS, include:

  • Chemical Security Safeguards: "Authority for the department to implement risk-based security standards for chemical facilities that present high levels of security risk.
  • Increased transportation funds: Enhanced security for all modes of transportation and support for traditional missions such as maritime safety, drug interdiction, presidential protection, and law enforcement. Funding is included for equipping first responders with resources to prevent, deter and respond to terrorist acts and natural disasters."
  • Strengthening DNDO: "A $163.6 million increase in funding over fiscal year 2006 for the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office. The funding will further the department's efforts in preventing nuclear and radiological terrorism."
  • Port, container and cargo security: "A $1.065 billion increase for the U.S. Coast Guard's Deepwater program, 450 new CBP officers for cargo inspection and trade operations and the resources to expand the Container Security Initiative program to 58 foreign seaports. In addition, $55 million will be provided for C-TPAT, supporting 100 percent validation of more than 6,070 certified partners."
  • FEMA remains in DHS: "The bill wisely reinforces DHS' ability to operate as a comprehensive all-hazards agency by keeping FEMA and its capabilities within DHS. The legislation further enhances FEMA's ability to prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters. The details related to the integration of FEMA and the Preparedness Directorate functions will take time to develop and implement, and a stronger department with enhanced capabilities will emerge as a result, the agency said. Each and every employee in FEMA and Preparedness is serving an important function and will continue to do so as part of the Department of Homeland Security."

"The 2007 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill affirms Congress's strong commitment to providing our department with the funding necessary to continue to build on our progress and fulfill our vital mission," DHS said in a statement.

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