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Texas DPS Director McCraw Discusses Public Safety and Border Security with Legislators
On July 19, the House Committee on Appropriations held an interim hearing to discuss interim charge 16, to "Evaluate the effectiveness of the Department of Public Safety’s use of funds appropriated during the 84th legislative session for border security operations. Examine existing data and reporting on border security metrics, and recommend improvements to ensure the availability of accurate information in considering sustaining or increasing border security funds."
The committee heard presentations from the Legislative Budget Board and the Texas Department of Public Safety about border security spending, metrics, and outcomes. Click here to see the presentation handouts.
The Legislative Budget Board (LBB) reported that 96% of the $800M in border funding appropriated by the Legislature went to the Department of Public Safety (DPS), which used the money in border regions and around the state for border security activities. Susie Whittington, CFO for DPS, confirmed the numbers: of the $800M appropriated under HB 11, $733M came to DPS - $305M already in the base budget, and $428M new funds for the biennium. Funds provided for 10hr work days for State Troopers, 250 new troopers on the border, and continued reimbursements for Texas military forces to participate in Operation Secure Texas. LBB estimated that In order to add 250 new troopers to DPS, the agency will need to recruit around 927 troopers in order to fully cover new positions, attrition due to transfers or retirement, and gaps in trooper deployment throughout the state.
Steve McCraw, Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, discussed border funding appropriations, as well as metrics and outcomes from border security efforts funded by the Legislature. He reported that the new funding appropriated for border security already pays for 90 new troopers, with two new classes graduating this fall, putting the department on track to meet the 250 trooper goal. Director McCraw said that their primary directive is increasing border capacity as quickly as possible, eventually phasing out trooper deployment and National Guard assistance.
Dir. McCraw also outlined border metrics, including how DPS assesses border security levels, which counties they target for increased activity, and how the department tracks its progress towards desired outcomes. Watch Director McCraw's presentation here.
Rep. Giddings asked about the impact of border deployment on other areas of the state. Dir. McCraw emphasized that border security impacts public safety statewide: "I can say that the most significant vulnerability for public safety and homeland security that the state faces is a porous international border with Mexico," bringing a strong organized crime threat, alongside sex trafficking and drug trafficking. He hopes that by assigning 250 new troopers to border regions, DPS will not need to deploy troopers out of their home communities to the border. Watch their exchange here.
Several legislators, including Rep. Howard (HD-48), Rep. Johnson (HD-139), and Rep. Giddings (HD-109) asked Director McCraw to provide concrete ways to explain border security success to their constituents. Director McCraw focused his responses on detection, interdiction, reduced crime levels, and seized assets. Watch a representative exchange with Rep. Giddings here.
Dir. McCraw concluded his remarks with a promise to provide the Legislature with further metrics for Texas' success and spending levels vs. other border states, and more information about constituent communication.