Napolitano on Sequester: Americans ‘Want to Think Their Borders Are Secure’

By Fred Lucas | February 25, 2013 | 8:23pm EST

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano (AP Photo/The El Paso Times, Mark Lambie)

( – Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano warned that the sequester could make America less safe, and that under the present budgeting formula there was no way to move money around to preserve funding for Customs and Border Protection agents, cargo inspection and other security functions.

“Terrorist threats, they don’t go away,” Napolitano told reporters Monday at the White House. “We’re now dealing with the emerging cyber security threat. I say emerging – it really is here. We have huge responsibilities which are somewhat new, and Mother Nature doesn’t go away because of a budget cycle. So we have to deal with all that simultaneously.”

The sequester is the $1.2 trillion reduction in spending growth that is set to automatically take effect on March 1, or about 2 percent of the total federal budget. Although the triggered spending cuts were proposed by the White House and approved by a bipartisan vote, the Obama administration has warned of dire consequences if the sequester goes through.

“Under the present formula it is just a big broad brush that treats everything as if its equivalent. There is no prioritization. There is no planning. There is no management,” Napolitano said. “As I said before, people don’t want to be less safe. They don’t want to be less secure. They want to think that we are securing the borders.

“They want to believe we are enforcing immigration laws. They want to make sure if there is a disaster, there will be a prompt response. These are things people expect out of the government for use to be able to provide. How do we do that when you have a cut that says you have to reduce your CBP hours, you’ve got to reduce overtime here, and you can’t for this over there?”

In response to a question, Napolitano said no one is trying to scare the public about the reductions in growth.

“If people are scared, it’s because the true impact of this is finally being made evident,” Napolitano said. “So people now are saying, 'Oh my gosh, what do I need to do?’ Well people need to be able to plan. They need to know what to expect.

“It won’t happen, like I said, like the flip of a light switch, but it will accrue over the next weeks, and that is why it’s so important to come to the table and reach a balanced approach so we can get this budget impasse behind us,” she added.

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