The effects of automatic, across-the-board, spending cuts to government agencies and services continue to be felt across the nation.
U.S. Rep. Ron Barber (D-Tucson) today said sequestration-driven budget cuts that are forcing Border Patrol agents to take unpaid time off are threatening the security of the border and of the nation.
Sequestration has become a political buzzword with Republicans and Democrats blaming the other for cuts that are supposed to total $1.2 trillion over 10 years. The cuts are being split 50-50 between defense and domestic discretionary spending.
The reason behind the cuts is to try and get a handle on the ballooning U.S. national debt which currently stands at more than $16 trillion. One agency particularly hit hard by those cuts is Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and that is raising concern for Congressman Barber.
Since the cuts were announced, Border Patrol agents have been told that they will be furloughed without pay for one day per two-week pay period beginning April 7. Barber says overtime also is being severely curtailed, leading to significant pay cuts for agents and compromised border security.
In a statement released Tuesday, Congressman Barber says the use of technology cannot replace boots on the ground. Barber is ranking member of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency in the Committee on Homeland Security. He made his comments today during a hearing that examined the effectiveness of information technology used in border security operations by the Department of Homeland Security.
"I have seen firsthand the waste of taxpayer dollars on programs like SBInet, that seemed promising, yet ultimately cost over $1.5 billion, with little to no return on investment," Barber said today. "To my dismay, SBInet's successor … appears to face the same challenges as SBInet and looks like more of the same."
Barber's office says SBInet, or the Secure Border Initiative Network, was a system of cameras, radars and sensors on towers that was supposed to detect people crossing the border illegally. It was supposed to stretch along the entire southern U.S. border. But after a 28-mile prototype was built in Arizona, DHS canceled expansion of the system in January 2011 after repeated delays, cost overruns and technical problems.
Barber also praised the work of the University of Arizona, which was chosen in 2008 to be co-leader of a team of research universities that have formed the Center of Excellence for Border Security and Immigration.
"This partnership has yielded numerous successful endeavors that can stem the flow of drugs across the Southwest border; aid in detecting deception and malicious intent by those seeking to enter the country; and improve the effectiveness of our checkpoints," Barber said.
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