Border Station Construction: Minimizing Costs and Leveraging Private Dollars

2253 Rayburn House Office Building

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0 Wednesday, May 18, 2016 @ 10:00 | Contact: Jim Billimoria 202-225-9446

This is a hearing of the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management.

Summary of Subject Matter

Official Hearing Transcript

Witness List:
  • Mr. Michael Gelber, Deputy Commissioner, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration | Written Testimony
  • Mr. Eugene Schied, Assistant Commissioner, Office of Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Department of Homeland Security | Written Testimony
  • Mr. Gary Gallegos, Executive Director, San Diego Association of Governments, Coalition for America’s Gateways & Trade Corridors | Written Testimony
  • Mr. Sam Vale, Chair, Public Policy Committee, Border Trade Alliance | Written Testimony

  • Chairman Lou Barletta (R-PA)
    Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management
    Hearing on “Border Station Construction: Minimizing Costs and Leveraging Private Dollars”

    May 18, 2016
    Opening Statement
    (Remarks as Prepared)

    Border Security is a fundamental responsibility of the federal government because we must protect both our national security and the American worker.  This makes border stations critical to our Nation’s security and our economy.

    The purpose of today’s hearing is to review major capital projects at our Nation’s border stations and examine how we can use non-federal and private dollars that are sitting on the sidelines to jumpstart projects to help meet these infrastructure needs.  It is important that the men and women who guard our border have the resources they need to better enforce our existing immigration and trade laws.

    There are 167 land ports of entry, also known as border stations that, according to GSA, see roughly $2 billion in trade crossings, 350,000 vehicles, 135,000 pedestrians, and 30,000 trucks daily.  These land ports of entry are important to our national security, as they serve as a line of defense against those who would enter this country illegally with the intent of attacking our homeland.

    However, the cost of maintaining and modernizing our land ports of entry is not cheap.  Projects recently completed or underway in recent years have totaled $1.5 billion.  And these costs don’t include equipping and staffing these border stations.

    That is why I worked to help craft language enacted in the Fiscal Year 2014 appropriations bill to establish a pilot program for public-private partnerships.  This pilot program allows for non-federal donations of real property and equipment at owned border stations to help reduce costs to the taxpayer.  More recently, language further refining this program was included as part of H.R. 3586, the Border and Maritime Coordination Improvement Act.  The intent of this pilot program is not to replace the federal responsibility of constructing and maintaining these critical facilities. 

    To be clear – making sure that we have the infrastructure and tools in place to enforce immigration and trade laws is a federal responsibility.  Rather, the intent is to provide additional tools to GSA and CBP to work with state, local, and private sector partners to help temporarily address funding gaps.

    Potential donations under the pilot should not be used to replace our federal responsibility or to circumvent our process of appropriately identifying priorities and needs.  Donations – whether they be of real property or equipment – are not free.  Generally, acquisition costs are only a portion of the total cost of an asset. 

    Each project considered under the pilot program should be limited in scope and carefully reviewed to ensure it fits with our national priorities and that the costs associated with ongoing maintenance and upkeep are assessed to protect the taxpayer from picking up an unexpected bill down the road.

    While CBP owns 42% of the owned stations, GSA owns and manages all of the largest and most heavily used border stations.  The size and complexity of these facilities vary widely and include facilities with traffic as little as two vehicles a day and 3,000 square foot buildings, to large complexes that see thousands of vehicles and house a multitude of federal agencies, including CBP, ICE, Agriculture, CDC, and the FDA.

    Unfortunately, many of these border stations have not kept up with new technologies, threats, and traffic.  We must ensure that we can effectively screen people and goods to protect our Nation’s security and commerce but at the same time facilitate the movement of legitimate traffic and goods.  This is a tough balance and the facilities and related infrastructure managed by GSA and CBP are critical to this mission.  Without proper facilities, new technologies like biometric entry and exit systems that better screen people and vehicles cannot effectively be deployed.  Without space for all the key agencies to operate, commerce may be slowed, hurting American businesses and killing job opportunities.

    Today, I am pleased to have GSA and CBP as well as private and local representatives here with us.

    We want to know the status of projects we have authorized, what are the future needs and priorities, and how public-private partnerships could be effectively used to help temporarily fill any gaps.  I hope we can get answers to these and other questions today.

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