Congressmen Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) and Michael McCaul (R-Texas) passed legislation through the House Homeland Security Committee, which would more than double the budget for border security teams that interdict southbound cash and weapons that fund and arm the Mexican drug cartels.

 The additional $15.4 million for ICE’s Border Enforcement Security Task Force, better known as BEST Teams, would come at no additional cost to taxpayers.  The funding comes from the cancellation of the DHS’s Advanced Spectroscopic Portal Program, which backed off purchasing millions of dollars in radiation detection equipment found to be unreliable. 

 “I will continue to work together with Congressman McCaul in ensuring we allocate the needed funds for the BEST Teams, which started in Laredo, Texas, in the 28th District of Texas that I represent,” Congressman Cuellar said. “BEST Teams have proven to be effective in cooperating with other law enforcement agencies in securing and protecting the southern border as well as stopping the illegal flow of firearms and money.”

 “We are taking a failed program and focusing resources on what we know already works and where we know the problem exists,” said Congressman McCaul.  “I have been down to the border and seen the direct benefits of the BEST teams interdicting the southbound flow of cash and weapons.  What better way to strangle the lifeblood of the cartels by stopping the flow of cash and weapons that fund and arm them.”

 BEST Teams have proven successful since their inception.  In FY’11, they confiscated more than $17 million dollars in currency, 886 vehicles, more than two million rounds of ammunition, and 2,001 weapons.  Additionally, since FY’10 they have accounted for 3,831 criminal arrests, 2,188 indictments and 1,869 convictions.

 Other amendments Congressmen Cuellar and McCaul passed through the DHS markup aimed at operating DHS more efficiently and saving taxpayer dollars would:

  • Secure two (2) additional UAV’s for the Southwest border using funding already within the budget of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air & Marine.
  • Utilize Department of Defense Tethered Aerostat Radar Systems no longer needed in Iraq and Afghanistan for use along the Southwest Border for surveillance.
  • Create the Border Area Security Initiative authorizes Operation Stonegarden Grants for the first time at the FY11 appropriated level of $54,890,000. It also guarantees that 80.7 percent of this money goes to the southern border. 
  • Standardize detection, as well as aviation and marine equipment purchases to gain buying power, streamline the acquisition process, address procurement issues, and improve control and oversight of asset purchases.