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DHS law enforcement officers face 14-day furloughs

Feb. 13, 2013 - 03:27PM   |  
By STEPHEN LOSEY   |   Comments
Many of the Department of Homeland Security's frontline law enforcement officers would be furloughed for up to 14 days if sequestration goes into effect, Secretary Janet Napolitano said Wednesday.
Many of the Department of Homeland Security's frontline law enforcement officers would be furloughed for up to 14 days if sequestration goes into effect, Secretary Janet Napolitano said Wednesday. (John Moore / Getty Images)

Many of the Department of Homeland Security’s frontline law enforcement officers would be furloughed for up to 14 days if sequestration goes into effect, Secretary Janet Napolitano said Wednesday.

In a letter to Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, Napolitano said sequestration’s budget cuts could also force layoffs at Homeland Security.

And she said the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief fund would be cut by more than $1 billion under sequestration. FEMA had $7 billion in its disaster relief fund in fiscal 2012.

“Reductions mandated by sequestration would undermine the significant progress the department has made over the past ten years and would negatively affect our ability to carry out our vital missions,” Napolitano said. “Sequestration would roll back border security, increase wait times at our nation’s land ports of entry and airports, affect aviation and maritime safety and security, leave critical infrastructure vulnerable to attacks, hamper disaster response time and our surge force capabilities, and significantly scale back cybersecurity infrastructure protections that have been developed in recent years.”

Unless Congress and the White House strike a deal to avert or delay some $1.2 trillion in budget cuts over a decade, sequestration will force automatic agency budget cuts beginning March 1.

Other cuts Napolitano outlined:

• The Secret Service would have to undergo furloughs and cut down on overtime, which would reduce agents’ availability and hinder ongoing criminal investigations.

• Congressionally mandated levels of Customs and Border Protection officers and Border Patrol agents could not be maintained.

• The Transportation Security Administration would have to cut its frontline workforce, which would “substantially increase passenger wait times at airport security checkpoints.”

• Immigration and Customs Enforcement would not be able to sustain its current operations to detain and remove illegal immigrants, and could not maintain the 34,000 beds for detained immigrants that Congress now requires.

• The Coast Guard would have to cut back its air and surface operations by almost 25 percent. This would hurt its maritime safety and security efforts, drug and migrant interdiction, fishing law enforcement, navigational aid efforts, and other law enforcement operations.

• Homeland Security would not be able to move forward on critical management programs such as modernizing its financial systems.

“Hurricane Sandy, recent threats surrounding aviation and the continued threat of homegrown terrorism demonstrate how we must remain vigilant and prepared,” Napolitano said. “Threats from terrorism and response and recovery efforts associated with natural disasters will not diminish because of budget cuts to DHS. We simply cannot absorb the additional reduction posed by sequestration without significantly negatively affecting frontline operations and our nation’s previous investments in the homeland security enterprise.”

Thompson sent Napolitano a letter Feb. 1 asking how sequestration would affect the department.

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