Surveillance drones that hunt drug smugglers along the Mexican border could soon be grounded. Installation of pole-top cameras and ground sensors to intercept illegal crossings might be delayed.
About $44 million has already been diverted from the government's health-related accounts, including the
And that's just the beginning.
FOR THE RECORD:
Border crisis: In the July 31 Section A, a photo caption accompanying an article about strains on federal agencies' budgets resulting from the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border said that millions of unaccompanied minors had surged across the border in the region near Mission, Texas. The number to enter since October is in the tens of thousands. —
With the expected failure of
Congress is scheduled to leave town Thursday for a five-week break without acting on the president's request for $3.7 billion in emergency funding or agreeing on an alternative.
But border agencies say their existing budgets — sapped by added costs from overtime, detention and transportation for the children, more than 57,000 of whom have arrived since October — will start running dry before lawmakers get back in September.
Administration officials warn that the price of congressional inaction will be steep, estimating the cost of caring for each immigrant youth runs between $250 and $1,000 a day.
On Wednesday, officials at the Office of Management and Budget were putting together plans to scrounge up funds. But without congressional approval, President Obama is limited to moving around money only in small amounts. That probably means the redistribution will touch many different programs — a distressing prospect for officials in vulnerable agencies.
Homeland Security Secretary
"We have huge investments in technology to speed up people traveling lawfully into the U.S. and [for] cargo advancement," Kerlikowske said. "There is money in those programs, but we would have to reprogram to keep up with the money that is now being spent on the Southwest border."
Without help from Congress, Johnson said last week at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, "we will run out of money to deal with this." Earlier this month, he warned lawmakers of a "harsh" diversion of resources "that will take money away from some vital homeland security programs I am sure members of this committee care a lot about."
Administration officials say existing funding will dry up by mid-August for the Homeland Security Department's Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Customs and Border Protection, which has racked up heavy overtime costs as Border Patrol agents become de facto child-care providers, expects to end the fiscal year on Sept. 30 with a $400-million shortfall.
The overwhelmed Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is providing food, shelter and medical care for the children, most of whom fled violence in Central America, is similarly on track to run out of money. Health and Human Services Secretary
A bipartisan coalition of senators Wednesday advanced a Democratic-led proposal for $2.7 billion in emergency funds, pared down from the president's request but still much more than the $659 million being considered by
Some lawmakers and aides on Capitol Hill suggested the budget emergency was being exaggerated by the
"There's not a mood of urgency," said Rep.
But others warned that costs would only rise over time and spread to other government operations. "Forcing the administration to move money around to make up the shortfall until an agreement is reached and signed into law will undoubtedly affect the
On Wednesday, Sen.
"The failure to act does not save money for the taxpayer," she said at a recent hearing on the legislation.
The problem becomes a circular one: Because Congress has not approved extra money for immigration judges to process the cases, children remain in custody at the border, cared for by Border Patrol officers, or in homes with relatives or community groups that are funded by Health and Human Services.
Burwell said the emergency housing situation was not as cost-effective as it would be to provide more permanent facilities.
"This is depressingly typical," said Robert L. Bixby, executive director of the nonpartisan Concord Coalition, a budget watchdog organization. "Things stop and start, and the failure to make longer-term strategic decisions about what we're going to do — and to do everything by short-term crisis management — is the way budgeting has devolved."