Tester fights for stronger national security budget

Security officials call on Congress to repeal sequestration

(U.S. Senate)-Senator Jon Tester today questioned key national security officials about their efforts to address threats to our homeland as well as the impacts budget sequestration could have on those efforts.

The Budget Control Act of 2011 mandated automatic across the board cuts to the federal budget known as sequestration if a broader budget deal could not be reached. A budget agreement in 2013 suspended those cuts for two fiscal years, allowing sequestration to return in Fiscal Year 2016 if Congress fails to act.

“What can Congress do so you can do your jobs better?” Tester asked Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson during a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing.

“Repeal sequestration so Homeland Security can do what the American people need us to do,” responded Secretary Johnson. “It is going to be difficult for us to meet all of our priorities with a sequestered budget.”

Secretary Johnson further urged Congress to address sequester budget caps because they do not allow Homeland Security officials to fully carry out their mission to protect the United States and keep Americans safe.

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director James Comey spoke to the lasting impacts of sequestration on the FBI’s ongoing work, and told Tester that the Bureau is still “climbing out of the hole” created by previous sequester cuts.

“At a time when threats are rising around us, we cannot afford to hamstring the very folks who are keeping our borders, communities and families safe,” Tester said. “As we heard from key national security officials, sequestration harms our national security and we must do better so we can stand firm and protect our nation.”

Recently, Newsweek reported that sequester cuts will reduce counterterrorism programs by 10 percent and weaken national security efforts.

In July, Tester demanded that Congress strike a bipartisan budget deal that eliminates the damaging sequester budget caps that are leaving federal agencies, including Homeland Security, underfunded.

Tester also sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) criticizing the inaction and failure to restore sequester cuts that are causing real consequences for ordinary families.