DHS backup border funding plan would take millions from TSA, other agencies

The funding from TSA includes $50 million planned for advanced screening equipment and $3 million collected from loose change left in trays at airports.
Image: Transportation Security Administration Security Officer Nyamsi Tchapleu looks at images created by a "backscatter" scanner at Ronald Reagan National Airport
Transportation Security Administration Security Officer Nyamsi Tchapleu looks at images created by a "backscatter" scanner at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images file

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By Julia Ainsley

WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security is requesting $232 million from the Transportation Security Administration to fund border operations in the event that Congress does not agree to fund $1.1 billion of its funding request, according to documents of a contingency plan obtained by NBC News.

Other components of DHS, which includes the Federal Emergency Management Administration, have also been asked to provide a portion of their overall budget to contribute to the $1.1 billion goal, according to the documents.

Internal emails and a PowerPoint presentation at the Transportation Security Administration last week outlined a plan on how the agency would fund a “tax” its parent agency may levy upon it. TSA programs identified as funding sources include $50 million set aside to buy advanced airport screening equipment and $64 million from a worker’s compensation fund set aside for injured TSA employees in 2010. The funding also includes $3 million collected from lose change left in trays at airports.

Funding for Transportation Security Officers, who run security screening lines in airports, are also “in play,” the email said. Cutting funding for those officers could have a significant impact on wait times for travelers as the summer season begins.

A spokesman for DHS said the Department in “considering all options” to address the influx of migrants on the Southwest border.

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“We will continue to work with our workforce to find dynamic solutions and funding to address this very serious problem. As part of this effort, it is our responsibility to explore fiscal mechanisms that will ensure the safety and welfare of both our workforce and the migrant population, which is also reflected in the supplemental request submitted to Congress,” said DHS spokesman Tyler Houlton.

President Donald Trump asked for $4.5 billion from Congress on May 1 to address an influx in undocumented immigrants crossing the southwest border, $1.1 billion of which was specifically set aside for “border operations.”

Those operations include “personnel expenses, additional detention beds, and operations combating human smuggling and trafficking,” according to the White House.

TSA was due to submit its list of potential programs to be cut last Friday, according to the documents. It is not known what whether DHS has approved the plan or whether it will have to be used.

A slide in the internal Power Point presentation, said it was up to DHS to internally fund the $1.1 billion request if Congress does not act to fully fund it.

“Sources may come from any appropriation that is legally available to transfer funds in FY2019…” the slide said.

In an email to senior leadership at TSA, one official wrote “The Department knows, as does the [Office of Management and Budge] and [Congress], that TSA was not over-funded by $232 million in FY19 and expects programs will be broken if funding is reduced.”

A House Republican aide said the fate of the White House’s budget request for the border is “very much in play,” but that Republicans were worried Democrats would attach provisions that would be “poison pills” to keep the bill from passing.

The aide said the bill is expected to be introduced before Congress’s Memorial Day recess.

Last week, TSA announced that it had identified 200 TSA agents, including air marshals, who could be sent to the U.S.-Mexico border.