The Fight Over Homeland Security Budget Cuts and the Real ID Act
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is decrying the Republican cuts to the Homeland Security Budget. She testified before the House Homeland Security Committee today and said the cuts would add to delays for airline passengers. I'm not buying it. And, I think the cuts are a good thing. Who wants more of this?
The House budget "cuts technology investments and security improvements on the Southwest and Northern borders," Napolitano said.
"It cuts aviation security measures. It cuts funding to sustain the progress that has been made in enforcing the nation's immigration laws. It cuts critical cyber security tools and operations. It cuts intelligence personnel. It cuts Coast Guard funding to support our war efforts abroad. And it cuts grants that support counterterrorism and disaster-response capabilities at the local level," she added.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg joined in the fear-mongering: [More...]
We've seen increase risk of homegrown terrorism -- the Fort Hood massacre (in Texas), the Times Square bombing attempt and the New York City subway plot.
What exactly is Napolitano seeking? According to Reuters:
DHS had hoped to buy 500 full-body scanners but will only be able to purchase about 250 and only half the number of explosive detection machines, 415 of 811, it sought to acquire this fiscal year, according to Napolitano.
If we don't get new machines, we don't need screeners to operate them. And not one of the instances Lautenberg mentioned had a thing to do with commercial air travel.
Meanwhile, there's plenty of money in the budget for border control. When asked about cuts to border security:
Secretary Napolitano assured the Chairman that most of the cuts related to construction and building maintenance and that the President would continue his “historic” border security efforts with 21,370 border patrol agents, 21,186 CBP officers, and $242 million in border surveillance technology. She went on to mention that the President supports efforts to “streamline” the immigration process, continue workplace enforcement, maintain 33,400 detention beds, remove over 200,000 criminal aliens, prosecute egregious employers, expand E-Verify, and provide for immigration integration.
No praise here for Republicans though. They are pushing hard for the Real ID Act to go into effect.
If you're a resident of one of at least 24 states including Arizona, Georgia, and Washington, your driver's license may no longer be valid for boarding an airplane or entering federal buildings as of May 11, 2011.
That's the deadline that senior House Republicans are calling on the Obama administration to impose, saying states must be required to comply with so-called Real ID rules creating a standardized digital identity card that critics have likened to a national ID.
Republicans Peter King and James Sensenbreer are threatening that if Napolitano doesn't capitulate on implementing Real ID by the May 11 deadline:
If Napolitano does not, air travelers from non-Real ID states would at least be subjected to what Homeland Security delicately calls "delays" and "enhanced security screening," or perhaps even be denied boarding. In addition, driver's licenses from non-Real ID states could no longer be used to access "federal facilities," including military academies, the Pentagon, Treasury Department, the U.S. Capitol, Veterans Affairs hospitals, and some federal courthouses.
"Individuals with a driver's license from a state that is not materially compliant with Real ID would need to go through a secondary screening" at airports, Wendy Riemann, Sensenbrenner's communications director, told CNET yesterday. "I'm told this is what happens now if you were on vacation and lost your wallet and had to board a plane." Riemann declined to answer what would happen inside federal buildings and courthouses, saying "I'm not about to get into hypotheticals."
How ridiculous that we might need something other than a driver's license to enter a federal courthouse. If that happens, I sure hope some lawyers challenge it.
Here's what I hope doesn't happen: Obama and Napolitano make a deal with Sensenbrenner and King that if Republicans restore the budget funding for more full-body scanners, extra TSA staff, and intelligence measures, Obama won't seek to further delay implementation of the Real I.D. Act. But something tells me, given Obama's penchant for compromise, that's exactly what might happen.
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