Over the next several hours Puerto Rico will be lashed by Hurricane Dorian. The hurricane is projected to continue on and hit the Florida coast this weekend. At the same time we find out that the Department of Homeland Security is raiding FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund of $155 million recovered from previous disaster relief to fund activities at the border.
While the overall fund balance is $26 billion, the base fund balance, where these funds are coming from is $700 million. Much of the major disaster funding is already targeted to previous disasters such as Maria which savaged Puerto Rico in 2017. The DRF is not the only FEMA program hit, funds are shifted away from pre-disaster mitigation, which is used by communities to reduce the impact of future disasters.
Looking more broadly across DHS it’s worth noting that while these funds are staying within DHS (as opposed to coming from DOD as was done previously), it is still a violation of the Antideficiency Act for using funds for purposes other than those specified by Congress. So what else is hit:
- One of the largest line items is from the Custody Operations budget for ICE. Given the increasing number of people being put in detention, this would seem to be a line item that would be fully obligated. Strange that there is money left over.
- The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) is cut. Given what we read in the news every day, cutting federal resources for insuring cyber security is an unsettling choice.
- Coast Guard’s Polar Sustainment Vessel takes a cut.
- Coast Guard’s National Security Cutter takes a cut.
- Screening Technology budget line is one of the TSA lines to take a cut.
- Passenger Screener line item also takes a cut.
- Domestic Investigations at ICE takes a cut.
- Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction budget lines take hits, including Legislative Affairs and Public Affairs
So, in general, we’re robbing Peter to pay Paul once again. Programs that keep Americans safe on airlines, prepare the U.S. for natural disasters, care for people (including children) we’ve taken into custody, and keep us safe from terrorists with nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons are all being cut.