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Lesko Opening Statement at TMS Budget Hearing

March 11, 2020

Lesko Opening Statement at TMS Budget Hearing

WASHINGTON – Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.), Transportation and Maritime Security subcommittee ranking member, today delivered an opening statement at a subcommittee hearing entitled, “Securing America’s Transportation and Maritime Systems: A Review of the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Requests for the Transportation Security Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard”.

Remarks as prepared:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I am pleased that the Subcommittee is meeting today to discuss the President’s fiscal year 2021 budget request, which outlines the Administration’s priorities relating to the Transportation Security Administration and the United States Coast Guard.

As authorizers, it is incumbent upon this Subcommittee to examine the President’s request, and I look forward to hearing from Admiral Schultz and Administrator Pekoske on how the proposed 2021 budget supports their respective agencies homeland security missions.

The United States Coast Guard faces an incredibly broad mission set, serving as part of the U.S. Armed Forces and Intelligence Community, while also acting as a law enforcement entity, regulator, and first responder.  One of the greatest budgetary challenges facing the Coast Guard is the need to achieve mission readiness in the face of increasing demands.  As we have seen through our oversight hearings and briefings on the Coast Guard’s drug and migrant interdiction efforts, disaster response missions, and the homeland security implications of a dynamic Arctic region, the service faces ever-broadening challenges.

I am pleased that the President’s budget request addresses several of these challenges, including an overall budgetary increase of $142 million over the FY 2020 enacted level.  Additionally, the budget includes necessary funding requests to construct a second Polar Security Cutter, post-delivery activities for National Security Cutters, construction of an additional Offshore Patrol Cutter, as well as funding for new Waterway Commerce Cutters.

The budget also addresses growing cybersecurity threats facing internal Coast Guard systems, as well as maritime transportation stakeholders.  These funding priorities are of important national security interest to the United States.  I look forward to hearing the Commandant address questions related to keeping some of these high-profile procurements on track and efforts to respond to the litany of threats facing our maritime interests.

As for TSA, the President’s budget proposal is $58 million less than funding appropriated by Congress in FY 2020.  The budget proposal unfortunately reduces funding to important transportation security programs, including Federal Flight Deck Officers and Law Enforcement Reimbursable Agreements.  It is unfortunate to see the budget request continue to target these programs year after year, even after Congress passed the TSA Modernization Act, which explicitly authorized funding for law enforcement reimbursements and prioritized new investments for Federal Flight Deck Officers.

Moreover, I am concerned that the FY 2021 request significantly reduces funding for procurement, impacting purchases of important technologies like Computed Tomography machines, checked baggage screening machines, and Credential Authentication Technology.  These investments have been heavily supported by Congress on a bipartisan basis because they make significant improvements to aviation security and mitigate specific threats to the traveling public.

Lastly, I hope to hear from Administrator Pekoske on how TSA is preparing for the upcoming enforcement of REAL ID requirements at airport checkpoints and how TSA can support travelers once the October 1st deadline arrives.

Both the Coast Guard and TSA sit on the front lines of protecting the free movement of people and goods and driving a strong American economy.  I thank both of our witnesses for appearing before the Subcommittee today, and I look forward to hearing your testimony. Thank you, and I yield back the balance of my time.