Budget seeks $2.6 billion for border wall and supporting tech

US-Mexico Border wall Nogalez, Az. 

President Donald Trump's budget request for the Department of Homeland Security won’t cover a promised wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border, but it beefs up border security with other kinds of technology.

The White House said its budget would allocate $4.6 billion in additional funding for "programs to strengthen the security of the Nation's borders and enhance the integrity of its immigration system."

Within that amount, is over $1.6 billion for the new physical "bricks and mortar" portion of the president's proposed wall along the southwestern border and another $1 billion for infrastructure and technology to directly support it, said Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney in a May 23 press briefing.

"We are absolutely dead serious about the wall," Mulvaney said. "In fact, after taking care of national security and the vets, my guess is it's in the president's top three. In fact, I know for a fact that it is," he said.

DHS is planning to build about 74 miles of new walls with the $2.6 billion request. There's also $15.5 million for IT related to the southern border wall and nearly $5 million for mission and operations support hiring that would be directly associated with the construction of the southern border wall.

Along with the wall, DHS' budget contains millions in other technologies not directly associated with the construction of the new wall and in locations that aren't in the immediate construction plans.

The budget separately devotes money for Customs and Border Patrol's implementation of other technologies, such as tethered surveillance blimps, towers and thousands of new ground sensors to help guard the frontier.

Since his confirmation, DHS  Secretary John Kelly has said installing a wall across the entire southern U.S. border probably wasn't in the cards because some areas of the rugged region would be better served with other technology.

In line with the president's March budget blueprint, the proposed budget would devote $1.5 billion for DHS activities to protect federal networks and critical infrastructure from an attack. It supports the "suite of advanced cyber security tools" that the agency would use for a "more assertive defense of government networks" and information sharing.

Kelly put a finer point on the agency's cybersecurity mission commitment, saying the budget provides both ongoing and new cybersecurity initiatives with $971 million in funding.

In a conference call on May 23, Acting Undersecretary for Management, Chip Fulghum said the budget continues phases I, II, III and part of Phase IV of the Continuous Diagnostic and Mitigation program.

CDM is budgeted for $279 million, Fulghum said, while Einstein is budgeted for $297 million, and $195 million is earmarked for infrastructure detection, according to DHS.

Additionally, DHS' "Budget in Brief" document said the agency also wants to spend $42 million on its Financial Systems Modernization project to migrate component agencies to a financial system to improve internal controls and efficiently process and report its financial data.

The agency's financial system problems have been a focus of the Government Accountability Office, which has been critical of the agency's handling of its financial systems. However, in a February report, GAO said those systems, which had helped place the agency on the watchdog's "high risk list," had seen some improvement. 

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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