Defense Bill Provides for U.S. Border, Maritime Security
A measure that includes important provisions for United States maritime and border security passed the Congress earlier this week.
The National Defense Authorization Act of 2017 is primarily addressed to Department of Defense programs but also includes spending provisions for the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Energy, and joint departmental programs.
The NDAA authorizes a total of $619 billion for defense discretionary spending, $3.2 billion above President Obama’s budget request.
The legislation enhances information sharing and coordination of military training conducted on U.S. borders between the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security in order to support military readiness, increase situational awareness of the border by civilian law enforcement, and improve the effectiveness of drug interdiction and border security operations. It also authorizes the creation of Department of Homeland Security Joint Task Forces to enhance situational awareness of threats and trends concerning illicit trafficking and to more effectively conduct joint operations to secure the land and maritime borders of the United States.
In connection with these provisions, the legislation requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to develop metrics to measure the effectiveness of security along the border.
Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson noted that the NDAA includes provisions to codify components of DHS’s Joint Task Forces for border and maritime security, an initiative launched in 2014.
“As part of our Unity of Effort initiative, we have brought a more centralized approach to budget making, acquisitions, hiring and the realignment of a number of headquarters functions,” said Johnson. “The centerpiece of this effort has been the Joint Task Forces we stood up in 2014. I am pleased that the president and Congress have endorsed and codified in to law this approach.”
Those DHS joint structures were modeled on the combatant command structure in the Defense Department. “These Joint Task Forces are comprised of the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection,” Johnson noted. “Unifying these components in their approach to border and maritime security has created a more operationally effective Department of Homeland Security. Joint duty must be the wave of the future for the Department of Homeland Security.”
The NDAA also authorized a DHS proposal for the creation of a new DHS Office of Strategy, Policy, and Plans headed by a presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed Under Secretary.