BudgetLawmakers question DHS about cutting costs

Published 21 March 2013

On Tuesday, during a hearing on inspector general recommendations, House lawmakers pointedly questioned DHS and Defense Department (DoD) officials  on departmental efforts to contain costs.

On Tuesday, during a hearing on inspector general recommendations, House lawmakers pointedly questioned DHS and  Defense Department (DoD) officials  on departmental efforts to contain costs..

The Washington Post reports that Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee wanted to know why DHS and the DoD did not make a stronger effort to cut costs in the months leading up to the sequester, which started on 1 March.

The DoD’s deputy inspector general, Lynne Halbrooks, told the committee that the Pentagon could reduce its costs by looking at major weapons systems which are over-budget and by not buying spare parts that the military already has in stock.

Representative Elijah E. Cummings (D-Maryland) questioned Halbrooks about the Pentagon’s development of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a program which has escaped the cuts, but which is costing much more than its original estimate.

According to Cummings, the Navy’s version of the aircraft is still unable to land on aircraft carriers.

Homeland Security Undersecretary of Management Rafael Borras told the Committee that DHS did not expect the sequester actually to take effect.

Committee Chairman, Representative Darrell Issa, (R-California), responded by saying that DHS and DoD should have been prepared either way, because they knew sequester would go in effect unless lawmakers agreed to comparable reductions.

Representatives John Mica (R-Florida) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) asked Borras to justify comments made by DHS secretary Janet Napolitano, who said that  lines at major airports such as Los Angeles International, Chicago O’Hare and Hartfield-Jackson in Atlanta doubled just days after the sequester took effect..

According to a report by the Telegraph, officials from each airport said they did not experience any unusual delays in the first few days after the sequester took effect.

Borras responded by telling the committee that he was “not aware that we’ve had any doubling of wait times at airports across the country.” Borras also said that cutbacks in overtime had “resulted in some additional wait time.”

DHS said last week that Napolitano’s comments referred specifically to customs lines, not regular security lines.