FY16 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill Also Emphasizes Disaster Mitigation Programs

WASHINGTON, D. C. – U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, today supported approval of the FY2016 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill, which includes funding for a ninth National Security Cutter (NSC) for the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and full funding for the federal Disaster Relief Fund.

The funding measure, approved Thursday on a bipartisan 26-4 vote, is now available for consideration by the Senate. With an emphasis on border security and hazard mitigation, the Senate bill invests in the role of the USCG to protect the nation’s maritime borders, fully funds the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Disaster Relief Fund and adds funding for hazard mitigation activities.

“The American people expect the protection that this bipartisan legislation would provide to confront threats from the air, land and sea, and in cyberspace. This important bill deserves to be debated by all Senators as soon as possible to ensure the Department of Homeland Security has the tools it needs to carry out its national security missions,” Cochran said.

The bill increases funding for the Coast Guard to $10.33 billion in FY2016 to meet growing demands on the service. Within funding for acquisition, $640 million is provided for a ninth NSC, the largest and most technologically-advanced ship ever deployed by the USCG.

“The demands on the Coast Guard to protect our coasts and waterways from terrorism, human trafficking, drug smuggling and other maritime threats are not diminishing. They’re increasing and will continue to do so as its jurisdiction in the Arctic region expands. The National Security Cutter is the best weapon we have to meet that demand,” said Cochran, who at an April hearing initially suggested that funding a ninth NSC would be prudent fiscally and policy-wise as the USCG works to modernize its aging fleet.

“The current Coast Guard production goal for only eight National Security Cutters is based on dated assessments and is insufficient to meet current or future requirements,” Cochran added. “I am pleased that the Senate bill would maintain the national security cutter production line in order to give the Coast Guard more certainty and capabilities to meet its operational requirements.”

Recent studies and reports by the Government Accountability Office and Congressional Research Service have explored the difficulties facing the USCG as it relies more on the new NSCs while retiring older, less-advanced cutters that are nearly 50 years old.

Regarding funding for FEMA, Cochran praised the Senate bill for its attention to hazard mitigation and funding for the Disaster Relief fund. The bill includes $7.37 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund, of which $6.71 billion is pursuant to the Budget Control Act.

“This legislation recognizes, as we’ve learned in Mississippi, that disaster preparation and mitigation activities can save lives, reduce damages and save money. I’m pleased with the strong emphasis on hazard mitigation programs,” Cochran said.

The bill notes that for every $1 invested in mitigation, $4 can be saved in disaster recovery. For that reason, the measure provides $165 million above the FY2015 enacted level amounts for mitigation programs, including $190 million for Flood Hazard Mapping and Risk Assessment Program and $100 million for the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program.